Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Skillz to Take Brazil @ Arlenes Grocery

Boa Tarde (that's good afternoon)

Its been a great past couple of days, got a chance to support my man, MC Aero at the BassBot Reunion at the Legendary Konkrete Jungle. For those FB'ers you can peep that here HG over Dubstep. Here it is live and direct:

After coming home from Europe, the focus has been really to continue to cultivate what Say Word and Fresh Roots has started, strengthening connections. I myself am in the midst of several projects that are going to showcase various collaborations with artists from around the United States and the globe. One of those projects Skillz to take Brazil is in conjunction with partner in rhyme Rabbi Darkside (3rd Party) and the Jazzy Frenchmen, Zajazza. We have been previewing the record here in NYC in a series of live events. The last one took place this past Friday at Arlenes Grocery in conjunction with KeyNote NY. Shouts to Rabbi and his Keynote family on the love. For those who didn't brave the rain or the cover (it wasnt expensive at all, but we know in these tough times how it is....), courtesy of Ms. Natty S. (who with her Brother, Donovan have become *THE* premier documentors of NYC underground/independent music...seriously, if you dont know them, you aren't doing anything in the NYC Hip Hop Community right now...)

Natty was dope enough to pretty much film the show in its entirety, so here are the highlights (Thanks Natty!!! )

I'm never forgetting my Face Book Fam so here are the links (which also serve as the tracklisting for the embed clips below..g'yeah)

Best Minds Remix-3rd Party
Intro and Nao Tem Preco
Little City
Somos Assin
Recognize Real
Very Good
Brazilian Freestyle

Pass the goodness along and for those on Facebook please let your friends know to find more of fresh roots
here Hired Gun FB Community page
Reverbnation Music(exclusive new stuff here first!!?!?! just get on the mailling list....)
Myspace (because people still check it

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Get up Stand up Tour-Road to the Rhythms pt. 2

Get up Stand up Tour-Road to the Rhythms pt. 2

Im experiencing déjà vu as I write on another beautiful Brooklyn day.
There has been so much that 3P experienced on this tour, to date
the strongest . For those of you on facebook; to check the video, click
Straight Organics.

With Chapeau Rouge to that point feeling almost like the pinnacle, we began
the trip to Berlin, crazy early in the morning. Just to get a sense of that feeling though here is some footage from that show:

Prague to Germany went fairly smooth, despite a slight disturbance in the force. On one of the stops, German police came aboard to inspect passengers papers. I’m still not sure what exactly for, but another passenger told us its essentially border patrol. Needless to say in our car only three people were searched, myself and the Arabic couple. Touring while black I guess is a new one for me. We kept it moving and landed at the wonderful home of our peoples, Maria Kapix. “Mary-Land” opened up their kind hospitality to us once again. I cant thank Maria enough, beyond letting us crash, her generosity didn’t know any limits, we got you when you come to NY. This was my first time having a chance to rock in Berlin, and the feel of the city got me excited. Berlin is a multi-cultural city, with many different groups, religions, ethnicities living relatively in close proximity. Berlin has a real modern feel, concrete everywhere, (though not many skyscrapers) and a lot of movement, though people don’t seem overly in a hurry. Later on that afternoon, we actually had our first gig, the EOW outdoor jam at Alexander Platz.

We literally were on a run for the border after Chapeau Rouge, I myself chose to simply stay up. To that point, we might of had a collective six hours sleep in us. The scene at AlexanderPlatz was a serious wake up call. A steady crowd of about sixty or seventy people, passersbys, familiar heads (shouts to the three Maria's, and Navina, Marc Hype, DJ Sarah, Kemp Krew holdin it down...)and EOW heads filled this open air space under a clock that could've been a prop out of Brave New World. EOW Berlin is headed up by DJ Marc Bulet, an amazing DJ, organizer, and hip hop archivist. Along with Igadget, the two of them spun joints, and also "DJ'd" for the storm of artist there to perform. The format was very Sin-Sinesque as emcees were put down round robin style and at random. The live mixtape feel, kept the energy and vibe of the show moving, and hyped. Shefket, Amewou, Diamondog, Furious, BatKat, S-Rok, Alibi and many others along with collaboration from a youth organization GangwayBeatz rounded it all out. Olad Aden is the social worker running the organization, and he brought emcees and dancers from his programs. We are looking to get that Bronx to Berlin to Brooklyn connection going later this year.

One of the most impressive aspects of the show was the youth involvement. Berlin has a very vibrant hip hop/arts education foundation, although as Bulet pointed out to us at one point, several of the community centers these programs are running out of will be shut down. Even with the success that the culture has had in helping youth, the realities of economics still remain. The positive is that, Bulet, GangwayBeatz and others are still representing (Bulet himself a teaching artist, lecturer working with youth and hip hop culture). The Berlin community clearly has been around (having first been introduced to the culture around 1980-81 per Bulet, who like KRS-ONE can boast "I was there!") and it was evident in the styles. Furious, Shefket,Diamondog and Ali be in particular had such amazing timing, rhythm and flow. Its been great to hear artist who I may not be able to understand the literal language, but the skill and strength of their ability is obvious. Diamondog, actually is fam with my people from Nomadic Wax. An Angolan born emcee who migrated from Brazil to Germany, he is a global emcee. Rhyming in three languages, and going for his masters he probably can spit the fastest that I've ever seen personally live. The talent was crazy, and with the youth it was truly an amazing event.

Somehow after the event and debating on the next move we still were awake enough to do a run through of the show for the following night at Cassiopeia, (Oh yeah, Friday was a benefit and warm up!) We headed back to Bulet's spot in a neighborhood called Kreuzberg (named after "Cross Hill" which is the highest elevation in the area), a largely Turkish working class community. The history of Kreuzberg has similar parallels to a civil-rights era lower east side; protest, artists, squatters. Bulet gave us a brief history of his life living there, and of the neighborhood, even the current gentrification it is undergoing (sound familiar?) A husband and father of two children, it was great to see someone still fulfilling their dream. We ended up staying and checking out clips of influential German hip hop artists, and Bulet spinning tales of some of the exploits of he and his crew. The family atmosphere just seemed to be the norm while we've been in Europe.

Saturday night was Cassopiea and as I broke down to you in a previous blog, the place is ill. Tonight though, we were rocking with Smith & Smart, Berlinutz, John Robinson and Quazzar. Needless to say, the place was rocking. Smith & Start in particular had a mostly German crowd going bonkers. The interplay between emcee, DJ DJ/percussionist was dope. Quazzar, and John Robinson at this point goes without saying the level they bring it at. Its been a blessing building with truly dope artist who have a real appreciation for the music and the culture. Their success clearly comes from being on the humble, and tireless in putting in work. Whether its been them or J-Live we really got a glimpse of how to do it from these three, something to grow from. Once we got to the stage, the place was packed and hyped. Mission accomplished, I actually had to roll back home, on credible sources (Rabbi and Far) however the party didnt stop till Breakfast around 8 or 9 a.m.

Normally I'm down, but Sunday was our last day in Berlin and I was hoping to get a chance to really see the city. Plus, we were going to the studio with Bulet to try and lay down as many tracks as we could. S-Rok, Ali Be, BatKat and later on Diamondog all represented. It was actually real dope because Diamondog came with his people DJ Wordz and fam and brought a German BBQ right to us. In between writing sessions, their were freestyle ciphers outside being run off a car battery, Speaker, Grill and a ton of Schnitzel. I actually got Bulet to break it down a little...

Here is some footage of some of that Grafitti that is literally all around the community center. This is their wall of fame.

We ultimately ended up getting two tracks for the most part recorded. But there is more coming, also Furious and a few cats who didn't get in are laying vocals as well. Here is one of the joints Igadget got to finish. It features 3rd Party, BatKat on the chorus, Ali Be, and S-Rok:

No Means No (EOW Collabo NY/Berlin) by iGadget

My trip ended with a very late night session with Diamondog building on everything from KRS to the state of persons of color all over the globe. I continue to be encouraged and excited at the bond I share with brothas from other parts of the world. For me, it strengthens my belief that we are dealing with a worldwide struggle, for acceptance, for respect. Berlin as a whole has been a tremendous experience to witness their love of the culture, and the power that it has to bring so many like minded people from different backgrounds together. By Monday afternoon, I was back in Brooklyn. I'm still not sure words and pictures do justice what I felt and experienced over there. Get up Stand up was a true Award Tour. it again.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Get up Stand up Tour-Road to the Rhythms part I

Get up Stand up Tour – Road to the Rhythms part 1

As I’m writing this blog, I’m looking out my window in Brooklyn, Labor Day weekend. The sun is shining and after getting my thoughts clear enough through the nagging sinus cold and jet lag I want to wrap up what this amazing tour was, is and means. Again, for my Face Book People click this link to get the video Straight Organics

The second week of tour would prove to be are most rigorous. After the love fest that was Hip Hop Kemp Rabbi, Far and I got a van ride the few hours to Prague. We were greeted by Kuzhell and Loki and subsequently passed out for the day. Hip Hop Kemp took everything out of us, the last night with Marc Hype and Jim Dunloop was of historic proportions with the energy given and expended. Now, we were about to embark on a four show, six day excursion that would take us from Prague, back to Berlin. We woke up Monday morning refreshed (or so we thought….more on that shortly) and ready for our first rounds of promo, which began at Radio DJ with the lovely host Mary. The Prague leg of our week involved us celebrating the single release of Phillip TBC’s “Audible Thoughts” album on DaSka Records. Our history with TBC and DaSka records goes back several years starting with Rabbi’s first trips to Prague. Rabbi is the featured artist on the single “Czech Yourself” (I also have a track on the album, “We R Machines”, and Fresh Roots will be getting you the details on the release….) and for the next several days the mission was to get the word out.

Mary who is a talented musician in her own right (electric violin) did a great job of giving us not the standard fare of questions, and it was a very insightful interview. Needless to say, we made plans to rock with her on Thursday at Chapeau Rouge (Red Hat). After the radio session, we all split up as I made my way to do a Drum n Bass set with Ghonzales, aka “Honza” on Radio 23 at the Cross Club. Honza is the radio host for Radio Wave in Prague, and we had bonded on our last trip here. The Cross Club is a mix of the Matrix and the Borg. It has four levels that are decked out with moving lights and mechanical parts, with what looks like open board circuitry and tubing. Imagine the paneling taken off the inside of a spaceship leaving the wires, pipes, tubes and screws exposed, that is Cross Club.

Its always fun to rock Jungle, and Ghonzales had some nice atmospheric rhythms. The next goal is to get Black Opz overseas. From there I raced back to rock with 3P at “Freestyle Nandej” at Pantheon (the Prague version of Freestyle Mondays). Our boy Dowis had re-vamped Pantheon since the year prior that I had seen it (Farbeon went on tour with Core Rhythm in February and passed through while Rabbi and I were touring Brazil….). A flat projector screen in the main seating area, that had a video relay from the stage area, new art, fresh coat of paint and a hotter sound system were all pleasant surprises (see the Kemp video in the recap blog for a view of the spot). In the time we’ve been in Prague it has been clear that their fervor for hip hop is intense. It is a relatively young scene not only in age but within the culture itself. They are still hungry, and excited to hear dope flows, and raw beats. We were only too happy to oblige.

As the showcase for the evening, the stage was ours to rip apart. Prior to us performing, they had an open mic sign up were many of the up and coming talents in the city come to rock. The differences between the US and Czech versions of Freestyle Mondays (The legendary seven year open mic hosted, and started by our peoples Mariella, Illspokinn and the band the XO….) is that the DJ runs the beats, and it is not “cipher” style were the mic is passed. You have a two minute time limit, unless you are killing it, which then you get to keep rocking or if you are wack, a “stop” sign is administered and the mic is taken….(for those of you up on your hip hop history, the legendary Good Life Café open mic in L.A. was actually run in a very similar fashion…..) . The premier spitter of the night was a young fourteen (yes FOURTEEN) year old girl, by name of Sharkass. She had all the flows and the style. It is a challenge to make the Czech language sound super fluid over beats, and this young woman did so effortlessly. Needless to say she just might be a star on the rise in Eastern Europe.

Ever since my first trip overseas barely a year ago, I’ve become spoiled with the amount of love we receive. It reminds me of what I experienced being a young fan going to shows when I was in college. People are ready and willing to enjoy the music. This entire trip has been a great boost and reassurance that hip hop still has love in it. To see so many heads wiling out, jumping around, and really appreciating the effort, and energy we put in was humbling and inspiring, I have yet to feel let down any time I’ve touched down on foreign soil. Shouts to Laila (aka Mc Lady), Lucie, Dowis, Alesh and the rest of the crew, we ended up building with the heads in the spot and partying way too late. I personally got a chance to really build with some young heads from Italy and Bristol, England who spoke English. Shouts out to Finger Food and his crew whom I built with outside Pantheon for at least an hour, thank you for putting me up on some English cats and hitting me with your documentary.

So after what had to be the fourth night of late night rocking, partying and no sleep (till Brooklyn) I officially crashed. Thankfully the next two days were only a rehearsal and a couple of radio appearances but I ended up at Jaro’s on the couch nursing a pretty bad head cold and aches. I needed to make sure I was ready for the big show on Thursday, and for the rest of the trip, as we would do three shows in three days. Needless to say, the time to reflect and recharge was much needed , and by Thursday it was on to Chapeau Rouge.

Chapeau Rouge is a club that is in and around center city and again is a multi-level bar/club. They décor is very different from Pantheon and Cross Club in that it has a more old world feel. The lower level where we rocked was an intimate sweat box with a booming system and dope wooden floor. We even had a “backstage” again stocked with libation and refreshments (I really can get used to that…..). More of the same, and this might have been our best performance of the trip. Before us, however BeatBurger Band (Jaro Cossiga, Nasty, Ivan Hoe, and Andru, peace to Johnny 5) heated up the crowd with some classic interpretations of some early nineties dance classics (as Rabbi said, beatbox Jock Jams). The Beat Apetit crew has always shown they know how to throw a party, and the stage had already been lit by the time we got to it. There has been no question that the night was a success, and I will be putting together a very special show collage to show just exactly what I am talking about. Thursday was our last night in Prague, and the following morning it was on to Berlin for the final leg of the tour, stay tuned for part II.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Get up Stand up Tour-Kemp Re Cap and a Public Service Announcement

As promised some quick thoughts on the weekend that was.....

And then Italy has a message for the rest of the world!!!!!!

If you are on FaceBook click here---->Straight Organics

Get up Stand up Tour-Hip Hop Kemp

Excuse the tardiness yall, Ive been under the weather and its been non stop movement between our show (Footage coming I promise....), Radio appearances and rehearsal for our big shows. Here is a little taste though of what has been going on. Today is a double dip day, so Ill have my recap right after this, but here is some J Live Footage with me as hype man, and a little insight from the 3P and DJ Sarah after day 2. For my FACEBOOK peoples, Straight Organics Blog

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Get Up Stand Up Tour Stop: Leipzeg (The Taxi, The Rider)

So its been a crazy four days, I will break down more of it in blogs once I reach Prague. It is almost 7am here in the Czech and Im bleary eyed after tearing down another stage with 3P. J-Live was our special guest. I wont get ahead of myself because this all gets very dope, but I wanted to hit you with something before our car picks us up to head out to Prague, so... This is some footage shot leading up to J-Live's set (which I may or may not post in order...). Hip Hop Kemp was absolutely crazy (other then losing my camera, dont worry the Flip is in a effect, just means more video then pictures). So check it out and enjoy....For my facebook homies just click Straight Organics

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Get up Stand up Tour-first stop: Berlin


So the show is back on the road and this time, yes we are coming to you live via VIDEO!!! For my FACEBOOK Fresh Roots Music

Bare with me, this is the first attempt of stepping into the digital realm!!!!!!

Then later on.....

So there you have it. We have a two hour train ride tomorrow to Leipzeg and we rock later that night! Below is just a sample (a small one) of the Graff and beautiful city I saw on the first day. Peace!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Get up Stand up Tour-3rd Party, J-Live, DJ Trumaster


KEEP TUNED to Straight Organics for the official tour diaries.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Hired Gun on the Come UP-click the link and leave a comment @ Ihiphop

Get up stand up.....

Peace everyone, if you've been following The 3rd Party posts or blasts you'd know in a few short weeks we will be once again crossing the Atlantic. Its been a beautiful hot summer for us and I hope its been for you as well.

Down to business....

I'm hitting you up to let you know that the hip hop site, ihiphop has me featured in their new artist section, "The Come Up". Click HERE to check it out and please LEAVE A COMMENT. I will be hitting you all after this weekend with more up and coming about the tour and what's going on with Fresh Roots....PEACE!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Free Music Free Download straight from Fresh Roots Music

Peace everyone,

I'm hitting you up to let you know that Reverbnation has hit me with an amazing opportunity to promote myself and my music. Out of tens of if not hundreds of thousands of artists, I was selected with a thousand others in a program sponsored by Microsoft Windows. What does this mean? Well, we are a part of an independent artist web campaign that offers one of our songs FOR FREE for download from the banner below.

What do you have to do? Click on the banner and download my track "Unforgivable Blackness" for *FREE*. No solicitations, no passwords, just click, then download and its over as fast as your internet connection is. What does this mean for me? Exposure and an opportunity for a larger market to possibly check out my music. Thank you all for your support in the past, it has only been through everyone who has commented on websites, purchased the album or voted for me on various awards that I've won, that these types of opportunities continue to open for me. Click on the link below, get some dope FREE music, help me, and let's keep it movin.



Tuesday, June 23, 2009

New Music....New Interview....Straight Organic

The Summer has officially arrived....

....And it has been a pretty strange weather pattern though, rain, sun, rain, sun. Speaking of Strange, my people's Michael McFadden and Acee (you may remember Acee's unbelievable beat for "unforgivable blackness" off the People's Verses....)just dropped their latest, release...self titled "Agent Strange". Myself, IllSpokinn (Spokinn Movement, Sin Sin fam), and Stephanie Diaz are featured on this amazing album. My track is "Hired Hand" and you can hear the track here (click the album cover):

It is available via itunes, napster, rhapsody or wherever dope music is sold.

I also had the opportunity to sit down with Zeb d'essence (of "Rappers are in Danger" fame off The People's Verses) and discuss the URB Next 100, new projects and in general the state of the music. Peace to the middle row.

Monday, June 1, 2009

DJ Zajazza-Musical Puzzle

The musical foundation behind the latest collaborative project between myself and fellow cohort from 3rd Party, Rabbi Darkside...Zajazza is a true loop digger with a love of the classics, and the skills and knowledge to bring it to you live. Musical Puzzle is Zajazza's latest homage to the roots of this culture we call hip hop. You can download the album for free by clicking this
link. Or you can click on the album cover. Peep below for the tracklisting and more desription about the project.

Musical Puzzle is a selection of breaks (jazz, soul, funk) mixed with freestyles from NYC hip hop artists. Zajazza tried with this mix to show the direct relationship between music from the 60’s/70’s and Hip Hop. Expect some famous samples used by Dr Dre, A Tribe Called Quest, US3 and more…

Zajazza’s comment:
“This project took me like 6 months of digging in the crates of Phily and New York, researching the right breaks and recording some NYC mcees in order to produce this homage to the roots of Hip Hop Music. So, what’s the recipe? Some good records, two turntables, a handheld recorder and some skilled mcees…”

Intro by Kid Lucky (Hip Hop Subway series) and Bill Blass on Kenny Burrel - Midnigth blue
Donald Byrd - Wind parade
Jimmy Smith - I’m gonna love you just a little bit more babe
The Wild Magnolias - Corey died on the battle field
Silver Convention - You turned me on, but you can’t turn me off (scratch interlude)
Mark Holder - Music Turns Me On
Richard Groove Holmes/Ernie Watts - Come Together
Barry Ungar - Lightly salted (Hip Hop Subway series freestyle)
Donald Byrd - Cantaloupe Island
(drum interlude)
David Mc Callum - The edge
S.O.U.L. - Soul
The meters - Live wire
George Freeman - The bump
Bill Withers - Still bill (scratch interlude)
Bobby Blue Bland - Goin down slow
Joe Williams - Get out my life woman
Lou Rawls - Christmas will be (Hired Gun freestyle)
Sly and the family stone - Sing a simele song
Sugar Ray - Knock him out (beat juggling interlude)
Michel Audiard - Tatou strip tease
Guy Pederson - Les copains de la basse
Bernard Wystaete - Day dream (poem by Aeden and freestyle by Bill Blass)
Driver OST - Driving (beat juggling interlude)
Sonny Stitt - Slick Eddie
Lou Donaldson - Blues walk
Brother Jack McDuff - Oblighetto
Ronnie foster - Mystic Brew (outro by Rawaness)

Zajazza is a French DJ/Producer who has been traveling around the world since 2002, finding musical adventures in Chile, Brazil, Portugal and New York City. In 2007, he spent a year in Brazil, digging and playing with the best local Hip Hop DJs, and MCs. The same year, he released the mixtape “O Segredo da Beleza“, a selection of the best Brazilian Popular Music he collected while touring. In 2008, he went to New York, and started to work with underground hip hop artists.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Hired Gun as seen in "Spittin in da whip"

Hired Gun on the streets of the lower east side. May 13th, 2 a.m. in a late model black Range Rover with "Crazy" "Al Cayne CAC-TV. Check the Ted Turner Autobiography:

Peep it here: HIRED GUN Spittin in the Whip Shouts to DJ Esquire and thanks for lettin us use the whip, homie =)~.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

URB Next 100

Here is the direct link: URB NEXT 100. Shouts to Say Word, ESP, Drop Squad and all the producers who made the album. We keeps it moving.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

More Footage from the Trinity Hip Hop festival

Rocking the spot with Mr. Reo, Zee Santiago, Outspoken, Cuttz and Decora of the Readnex Poetry Squad and several Trinity Students. Video Courtesy of Magee Mcllvaine, Sol Productions/Nomadic Wax

pt. 1

pt. 2

pt 2 cont

Thursday, April 23, 2009

WorldWide We Rule: The 4th Annual Trinity Hip Hop Festival.

Hip Hop currently is undergoing its mid-life crisis. Looking in the mirror at itself wondering, “what have I accomplished”? Instead of reveling in its found wisdom and maturity, it resorts to living a fantasized youth of frivolousness, and trying to re-live days that were the same as it never was. Among one of the things here in the states it has overlooked are the younger brothers and sisters it has helped to raise worldwide. Senegal, Zimbabwe, England, France, Germany, Haiti, Brazil, Czech Republic, South Africa, Japan, and Israel/Palestine; these and many more countries have embraced the art and culture of hip hop as a way to make the younger generation’s voices heard, respected, and unique.

Despite the global phenomenon that hip hop has become, the reality is that much like the fabric of our society that exports much of our culture but does little to import and respectfully embrace others; many consumers, artists, and keepers of the culture here have little to say about artist from across the way (unless of course they are paying for them to fly out, bag their women, and be idolized…but that’s another story…..). Very sad considering how powerful we know hip hop is as a medium to discuss issues of race, class, community, and just about any subject pertaining to modern society.

Enter Trinity College, and their International Hip Hop festival an event that they have created out of the necessity to give a little more light to these artists whom spit that fire, just in a wholly different tongue. This year (my second in attendance out of the four that it has so far under its belt…it would’ve been three had I not a family trip the year before…) I was honored to be asked to participate as co-host of the event, along with The Princess of Controversy, one of a small handful of American Artists to grace the stage and take part. Trinity College students, headed by Magee Mcllvaine and Ben Herson of Nomadic Wax, originally founded this festival. One of the original students, Zee Santiago is now one of the main organizers along with Katie McGuigan, both Trinity students (shouts to Elizabeth, Jazzy and everyone else on the team!). This tradition is now in its fourth year, and was truly an experience.

Princess of Controversy and myself

Over the course of three days, the festival that is free and open to the public, not only hosts and showcases talent from around the world, but conducts seminars, workshops, panel discussions, and movie screenings of relevant hip hop documentaries. The goal of the festival is to raise awareness, not just of the hot music that you’re missing out on from Haiti and Cuba, but also to bring attention to the serious issues that these artist and communities face in their native countries. The festival is a nexus of Artist/Activist/Scholars bridging gaps to new communities, and fortifying bonds based on the love of the music. You can come and simply rock out, and at the same time you can also go a little deeper and get a glimpse at what is going on in almost every part of the world through these keepers of culture.

The first day and evening was mostly spent preparing for the rest of the weekend. However, an amazing documentary, FangAfrika was screened. Taken from

Fangafrika is a stylized look at the festival in Ouaga, in Burkina Faso, where Africa's best and brightest rappers gather using hip hop to tackle the serious issues facing
Africans everywhere.

Throughout the documentary the artists made it clear that hip-hop was a driving force amongst youth to be heard, and to dialogue on issues they were dealing with from sexism to the political treatment of the third world by the first. The best way for the festival to begin was grounding it in a recurring (but not the only) theme, hip hop art and music as a means of social mobility, and social change through facilitating cultural exchange and information..

There was another theme that kept coming up. Hip Hop is down to party.

The night was alive as Mr. Reo, an artist representing Brooklyn, by way of Haiti kicked things off. Commandant Fatso and outspoken representing Zimbabwe were next. After them came the African Underground All-stars, which consisted of myself, David Sharma and Ben Herson on drums, DJ Boo, Bay Muusa and Self Suffice. Bay Muusa is actually one of the main artist from Nomadic Wax and represents Senegal. The irony of this lineup (there are several rotating emcees, beyond Muusa and the band) was that it was more the “African American” Underground All-stars. The Game Rebellion who headlined the first night followed us. The special part of the evening however, came in the cipher at the end. The Rednex Poetry Squad representatives, Decora and Cuttz came on the strength and love of the event, and got on stage to rock with the other artist of the night. Much like two years prior, when I myself simply was at the event as a supporter of the culture, and was pulled on stage, they added more to the authenticity of the event being about hip hop as a community…..a global community.

Day two began with a series of workshops facilitated by Beat Burger Band (yes..THAT Beat Burger, Say Word fam, Jaro, Nasty, Kuzhell made the trip along with Lokey, and John) and myself showing the crowds the finer points of beat boxing and freestyling.

This gave way to a panel discussion on the stereotypes within Hip Hop. On the panel were Dr. Gail Waldu, Dr. Emily Musil, and Professor Nick Conway, all faculty at Trinity. The discussions began to put together a framework of the realities that specifically young black and brown people dealt with in the face of a mainstream culture which looked to limit them, via various biases and negative portrayals of their communities and themselves. After this discussion a screening of Planet B-Boy followed by an actual B-Boy competition. Planet B-Boy followed six crews from all over the world in their quest to win the World B-Boy Championships. The beauty of the film was showing how worlds and communities were again, uniting and expressing their culture through the universal language that is hip hop culture.

The Final night of this festival was far and away its best. Poetic Pilgrimmage, Mohammed Yahya,Zee Santiago, and Blitz the Ambassador blessed the stage, along with special guests M.C. Daniel, Aja Black and Samir (like I was all about community, AJa and Samir actually flew out from Denver, simply to support the event.) The night belonged to one man though....K'Naan. If you dont know, you will soon enough, the Somalian born emcee has slowly been rising and recently released his second album, Troubador. It is rare at a Hip Hop event that you see people, hands in the air, waving them with cell phones and lighters, reciting basically a slow ballad hook. K'Naan is a musician with power and purpose, and literally brought people to tears admist the uptempo rhythms and slick lyrics.

Ultimately, this Festival; to date the only one of its kind in the United States has become a flashpoint of global consciousness and an introduction into the literal "World" of Hip Hop music. Honestly, in my own personal travels, it was fitting that after coming home from Brazil, that I would end up as the host to the home of International Hip Hop music here in the states....

WorldWide WE rule...

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Skillz to take Brazil tour stop: Rap Compromisso-Alvorada

Its around midnight in Brazil, and I'm on the island of Florianapolis, listening to Illmatic. Pretty appropiate as I reflect on the unofficial final performance of the tour. Nas has been considered a street poet and the quintessential emcee, and in its own way this tour has been as much a story of the streets and the essential elements of this culture.


With the tour winding down most of the time had been spent after are legendary marathon session with Nego, reflecting and listening to Little City (peace Alessio....). Prego had told us before we left Bom Jesus that there was a possibility of us performing with him for a big festival in another favella on Sunday. Sure enough, Prego hit us up Sunday and came through to whisk us away to Rap Compromisso or Rap Compromise an all elements show in a Favella named Alvorada. After a quick pick up of Prego's dj and producer we headed to a large outdoor stage right across from a school.

Rap Compromisso is an all elements show that brings emcees,b-boys,writers,and heads from all over southern Brazil to represent. Think a smaller version of Rock Steady. It was pretty crazy to see all the B-boys and people completely loving the music. Sam and I spent a lot of time in the crowd, freestyling. So many of the heads seemed to gravitate to me. Since Ive been here there has been a kinship shared between myself and the brown people of this country. We share a heritage and they are very aware of it. Between verses I was asked about discrimination and Obama. The young heads told me about their own trials dealing with race. It was crazy, humbling,empowering and frustrating all at the same time. Not only did we have hip hop in common, but this shared struggle and burden on a level, no one really understands. Beyond the impressiveness of the energy and love for the music that they have, Im leaving with a sense of brotherhood that Im happy to have found.

So, finally after about four plus hours of waiting our turn was up. We actually debuted earlier with KBE and Abolitionista but this was our official turn. I forgot to add that their was a sign-up list and most acts were limited to a couple songs. We got on a little past primetime but it was all good....we got to rock with Prego, bust some frees and really connect.

Shouts to SME Crew, Jefferson, Franklin and Nego Prego for once again showing us the real and the true essence of Brazilian Hip Hop. In the Southern Hemisphere they are about skillz, true stories and community. They represent the history and the culture to the fullest. So here we are on the back end and I think I will do one final reflection, and then the video blog..... which really will be about the second half of Porto Alegre and final breakdowns. Stay tuned......WHHHHOOOOOO HHHAAAAAA

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Skillz to Take Brazil Tour Stop-Porto Alegre pt 2. -BOM JESUS

Oi! Como Vais?

Peace y´all, it has been a great 72 hours and I finally have the opportunity to get down on it and write about it. The tour has taken an extended pit stop in the city of Porto Alegre, but for good reason....we are on some historical shit here. When I told you we were Award Touring, I was not playing. My Passport now has a Favela stamp in it. We are going to do this right and take you through the valley first, then the mountaintop.

This is the tour stop you have to read....this is what it is all about


So after one night in the home of Sousa, the brother of Lilo from UR$ Faundo, we got ready for what was technically "The Anchor" show for our tour. Our intentions for Porto Alegre were pretty clear, hit the city hard, and on stage go in. We came to show Brazil how we do it. We saw some flyers postd up the night we spent hanging out on the corner with Sousa, so we were encouraged that this event would be on point. We began to hear even more favorable things about the venue, namely it was *the* premier underground spot in Porto Alegre, the place where heavyweights and the die hard fans came to rock, be seen, and hear the dope shit. The anticipation rose with each hour. Alessio and Zohio were with us, so the vibes in the crew were nothing but positive. Sadly, the expectations didnt quite meet the reality.

We arrived at the club, Garagem Hermetica pretty early for Brazil, but we did so with intent. We wanted to make sure shit would be right. The spot has a pretty profound history as far as hip hop goes. The space has hosted and been the center point for hip hop for ten years, the first and longest running in the city. It also has New York ties, as it is the home base for E.O.W. Brazil. Walking in, the hall was large, and it had that grimy feel you'd expect from an underground spot. The stage was large, and two huge speakers hung from the ceiling. It was hot as hell in the spot, and our anticipation just kept building. Shouts to Felice who put us down and put it together, this show really was the anchor for our trip, but not in the way we had expected....

The sound check went perfect.... And I mean, the mics were crisp and we THOUGHT we spotted all of the problems or obstacles sonically. One of the mics had a loose connection, and we gerry-rigged it with some tape, tested it. No problems. By midnight, only a handful of heads had stepped through the door. We didnt care though, we knew Brazil got down late, but we just were at a fever pitch. *We* were ready. We thought the sound was ready. It was just a matter of time. We watched Felice and his crew do their thing on the decks, good mix of classic shit and some New York indie stuff. Zajazza had invited a number of his friends to the joint, respect to DJ Only Jay, and Debora and her peoples. You held us down for real, and that was love. Respect Due. We also had a very surprising guest come. Nego Prego. Nego Prego turns out, is one of the OG's of Porto Alegre hip hop. He was a very unexpected patron. It was dope that he was cool with Zajazza's people. Another couple hours passed, and things seemed to be thinning. The time was now....

Alessio jumped on stage and introduced us in Portugese, and Rabbi and I almost hurdled the front railing of the stage to rock. We were lions out the cage. And then....Rabbi's mic started cutting out, then mine. We switched kept it moving, and midway through the song...Zajazza's mixer began to short. Our perfectly planned and executed entry dashed, we kept it moving. Unfortunately, the story of our set was that...we spent the next hour, stopping every song, to try and fix the mics or the music from cutting out from Zajazza'a mixer. Welcome to Hip Hop. Our set was bittersweet, we gave it all we had, we never stopped, never bitched, we just spit harder, we did *every* song of the set. It had gotten so desperate, Rabbi literally did *jump* over the railing with no mic and started rapping to people in the crowd. I did my last verse as well acapella in the crowd, no music (clap...clap clap...clap).

What we thought was to be our shining moment in Porto Alegre, was anti-climatic to say the least. Zajazza's people tried to console us, and shockingly we had more then one person who stayed say how impressed they were with us, one of those people was Nego....and that is where things of us started our climb out the Valley.

Thursday-BOM JESUS

Needless to say we all were pretty low after the show. We didnt really get paid, the sound completely sabotaged our set (we figured out that the humidity in the spot, loosened the connections...their was no ventilation, and it was sticky hot...those mics and the mixer sat on the stage stewing for probably three hours after we checked them...only explanation.)and we even got flack from some drunk girl who was in the place. After coming from Passo Fundo were the love, and the energy were so positive, this was not how we wanted to continue.

Its funny though, everything happens for a reason. As I said before, Nego Prego was one of the heads that had let us know he was impressed. WE soon found out how much he was. Alessio got a call in the afternoon from Nego extending an invitation for us to come to BOM Jesus to chill with he and his crew, Ala Dos Pretos Ducorre. Dope! Alessio and Zajazza clued us in to how significant this was. Nego had to be the most respected rapper in the Favela, and was one of the most recognizable and established in Porto Alegre. He was a true O.G. going back almost twenty years repping Hip Hop. His name means "Black Nail" and Zajazza compared his narrative style to Kool G. Rap. Shit is beautiful.

Around 6ish we headed out to a gas station on the edge of BOM JESUS and the city. There Nego was to pick us up and lead us into a Favela that to his and anyone elses knowledge *no American emcees had ever set foot in.* BOM JESUS means "good Jesus" and the full name actually is BOM JESUS 470...the 470 being the bus line that runs to or through this particular Favela. Shortly after we arrrived Nego rolled up in a red ford compact car with two of his crew, one of which we learned was very much a part of a gang war that had been on going in the Favela. He would not accompany us for the whole trip, as to do so could have sparked violence (I will get into that shortly). We got in our car and off we went into Good Jesus.

It was dark, so it was hard to get good photos, and I have some great video that I will upload in a seperate update....but this is one thing, I need to make clear..the Favelas are not "City of God". Our American fabrication of the truth has proven to be so convoluted and even *dangerous* (I will get into that as well....). Imagine half hut/houses, built with corrugated roofs and open exposed brick on the insides and outsides of the homes. Electric wiring completely on the outside of the walls, makeshift run through exposed rafters. Multi level houses were the levels are completely uneven, so as you can see down into the first floor of the house. Stairs constructed of rickety, rotting wood. The roads were half cobblestone, and pavement, and full of potholes. Every building looked either incomplete or in a state of condemnation. Horses with carriages shared the street with cars and motorcycles that were too narrow to hold two at a time. This literally stretched for miles. Our first stop was at Nego friend's Caio, Bar. This was where they hung their of their shows and with other famous emcees. Everyone was very excited to see us...they didnt get visitors here, and once word got out that we were American Emcees, and a French DJ, their curiousity was really piqued. Why were we here? How did Prego know us? We chilled, snapped photos, exchanged cds.Just kicked it.


We then walked through the Favela down to meet more of his crew.Besides Caio, there was the emcee KBE, who actually rode in with Nego from the Gas Station and we met Alcatraz next, who was the local Barber/emcee. Crazy how hoods parallel, just like in the states in most Black neighborhoods, the Barbers chair was were they chopped it up, gossiped, chilled. WE had a small entourage with us at that point, but we were at total ease. Here, Prego gets maximum respect. If you are cool with him. They are cool with you. Simple as that. It was here that we also met their engineer/producer Aboliaonsta. We followed him to his home which was where his studio was located. Yes, we were about to do the first US/Brazil collaboration with the biggest emcee in BOM JESUS.

Over the next ten hours, we put together the track, "Little City" which is the crown jewel for our release, the Skillz to Take Brazil Tour EP. It only took so much time because 1. We really took our time to chill, and build with Prego and his crew and 2. Technical difficulties forced Zajazza to go back to the apartment and get his computer to finish the recording. During that time I sat down and with the help of Zohio, Alessio, and Zajazza got to speak to Ala Dos Pretos Ducorre. Their name roughly translates to "Circle of Black Men" and I learned that Prego and his crew were geographically and literally in the center of a gang war between the North and the South. It was he and his crew that had brokered a truce and were keeping the peace, but their were still tensions. Prego, Caio and KBE asked me about what was really real in the states as far as the gangsta cred of people like 50 Cent, Dr. Dre etc. All I could tell him was, that much of what they saw on t.v. was more fantasy and real, and Prego's reaction was one of "I knew it".

He explained that while hip hop in the Favelas now was a way for heads to keep themselves away from the crime and violence, it was actually heads trying to copy and live up to the myths and images of American Hip Hop that spurned a lot of the early violence in the 80'S and 90's in the Favelas. One example he pointed to, was it wasnt until heads saw the movie Colors, that drive by shootings started there. Before hip hop, Samba was big in the clubs, and once hip hop took root, that was when fights and shootings happened there. Through all of this, Prego has used his music and his experience to tell the truth about what went on, and to express caution, and alternatives to the violence. He idolized Snoop Dog though, and actually first got into hip hop by listening to Ice-T off the colors soundtrack himself. It was clear though that Prego was about non violence, even if you could tell that you did not want to fuck with him. He is 5'3" pretty brolic and has a very cool, controlled demeanor. If you are in the hood enough, you can identify dudes not to fuck with...Prego is that dude. He doesnt say much, but what he says holds weight.

In the studio, the track was absolutely bonkers. Even with the extended delay, we all managed to get in their and wreck shop. As we passed around 22's of Skol, and talked it was clear that something monumental was taking place.Two worlds that really did not interact with one another were meeting. U.S. and Favela, street and non street. The common ground was the music we loved, and the truth we spoke thorugh it. Real Recognizes Real. The track consists of Rabbi, Prego, Alcatraz,Myself,Alessio,KBE,and Aboliaonsta. Prego also hipped us to more of the history of Brazilian hip hop which had its roots in the eighties with a man by the name of Nelson Triumph (translation). Here it started literally with the Funk and it moved from there.

The crew dynamic within Ala Dos Pretos Ducorre is a little different then UR$ Faundo, from a few perspectives. 1. The Circle of Black Men is older and has been in the game longer, they also are grown men with children, wives. 2. Their Favela is bigger and seems more violent, so the gravity they deal with on a day to day is reflectd in their demeanour. It was interesting to watch how Prego was the general, KBE being something like a lieutenant and Caio the Colonel. Around 5:30am we jumped back in the cars and headed out of BOM JESUS to sleep and really soak in what we were just a part of. It only gets crazier from here....we are doing a show with Nego Prego on Sunday....Skillz to Take Brazil.....