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Rick James, MTV & Jim Crow Programming

Rick James and Grace JonesStreet Songs came out 1981. After winning the American Music Award for Best Album, I took some pictures backstage with Grace Jones. Grace and I were clowning with the photographers. A newsman asked Grace why she wasn’t on MTV. She replied, “Cuz MTV has no taste.” She said that’s why she and I weren’t on it. I said something similar, but using slightly stronger language…

The MTV thing started to catch fire. It seems whatever the [expletive] I said that day with Grace moved a lot of people. Everyone wanted to talk to me about MTV, the racist TV station. At the time I came out and called MTV racist, there were one hundred and fifty videos on it. Out of those openly three were Black Musical Youth, Eddie Grant and someone else I can’t recall- that was it. Two out of three were Jamaican groups. MTV was supposed to play Top Forty groups. That means anybody in the Billboard Top Forty should be on MTV. Their policy was to play Urban Contemporary, Top Forty stuff. This being true, where was Teddy Pendergrass, Rick James, Diana Ross, Donna Summer and a few other Blacks that were crossing over big time? They were not being played.

In the Fifties that was called “Jim Crow programming.” Radio DJ’s at White stations were not allowed to play Blacks. It was considered “Devil Music.” That’s why Elvis, Buddy Holly, Pat Boone and other White singers became so successful covering Black tunes- and getting hit records out of them. Imagine Pat Boone getting a hit off Little Richard’s “Lucille.” It was [expletive] up. Then Alan Freed, a White DJ, opened the doors for Black artists. MTV was the same [expletive] 50 years later.

I had spent thousands of dollars making some great videos only to have MTV say “No way.” MTV even refused to play the classic video “Standing on the Top,” which featured me with all the Temptations- the only videos they are all in. Linda Ronstadt could sing “Ooh Baby Baby” but when it came to Smokey Robinson, MTV said “No Go.” I had had enough and was going to bring MTV into the light, no matter what the cost- and believe me, it cost me plenty.

Bob Pittman, the Program Director for MTV, was a well-known racist in telecommunications. He was brought into jobs to higher and fire Blacks. He programmed MTV, which was owned by Gulf and American Express, big [expletive] companies. They started MTV as a big [expletive] s tax write-off, a tax shelter with just one law: KEEP BLACKS OFF. I did an informal survey to find out what was going on. I even talked to Jay Johnson, one of the DJs on MTV, a British Black…

Bob Pittman came out in Rolling Stone magazine and said certain Blacks did not make the kind of music he thought appropriate for his station. If that wasn’t a racist remark nothing was. Sammy Davis Jr. And Hall & Oates even appeared on TV and said I was right. I was told that when Bob Pittman was told about my feud with Prince he immediately put Prince into rotation with this record called “Little Red Corvette.” The record had died on the charts- I mean died. As soon as MTV started playing the video, the record was re-released and became a smash. That’s the power of MTV. I could have sold thirty or forty million more albums had MTV played my videos.

My efforts did not go in vein. Little by little MTV added more blacks to their play list. Now they even have an alternative MTV, VH-1, just for Blacks. The first video of mine they ever played was a record that wasn’t even mine. It was a tune I composed for Eddie Murphy called “Party All the Time.” Eddie and I did a video together for it. It was a number one record and the first time MTV even put Rick James on screen.” From, “The Memoirs of Rick James” By: Rick James

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Love Your Life: Your Work

The Flyest Mogul Flying“We didn’t want a separation between life and work, because what you do is who you are. And when you work in a great environment, you get so much more done in a minute. The more you enjoy your work, the better business is going to be. Your product is going to be great, and the customer experience is going to be great. If you are passionate and engaged, you are going to want to get it right and you’re not going to be wasting time.” From, “The Glitter Plan” By: Pamela Skaist-Levy and Gela Nash-Taylor

Have a fly day!

Lots of Love,

Starface

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Love Your Life: Analyze

Buy Black Fridays“I had enough experience to know that in order to be a good organizer of anything which you expect to succeed- including yourself- you must almost mathematically analyze cold facts.” -Malcolm X (The Autobiography Of Malcolm X)

Have a fly day!

Lots of Love,

Starface

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Chaka Khan On Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou“Maya Angelou’s, ‘I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings. That was the first book by a Black woman I ever read, and I remember loving it. I remember it making me feel spiritually lighter and heavier all at the same time. I could definitely get with the metaphor. I didn’t process my feelings at the time, but looking back, I now know what it did for me: It held out hope while it told truth. Tough, rough, heavy times will be, but so too the overcoming. ‘Caged Bird’ would stay with me over the years and I still think it’s beautiful.” -From, “Chaka: Through The Fire” By: Chaka Khan

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Love Your Life: Eternal Legacy

Elsie Law Logo“Though born with great physical gifts, [Roberto] Clemente worked furiously to hone them. That trait is what distinguishes the good athlete from the eternal one.” -From, “Clemente” By: The Clemente Family

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Music History Fact Of The Week: Tupac Was Slated To Star In Higher Learning

Get Off My Wings LogoTupac was slated to star in the movie, “Higher Learning.” However, his “legal troubles” stop his appearance in the film. According to a biography on the legendary figure: “By the end of 1993, Sony execs were pushing hard for John Singleton to drop Tupac from the cast of Higher Learning even though the lead role had been written for him. He’d become in a manner of speaking, radioactive. Singleton was miffed, but there was little he could do as Sony, not wanting a part of the controversy took a pass on Tupac.” -From, “Tupac Shakur” By: McQuillar & Johnson

[SIDEBAR: Independent owned & operated Black businesses are necessities.]

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Fly Quote: Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday“Everyone’s got to be different. You can’t copy anybody and end up with anything. If you copy, it means you’re working without any real feeling. Whatever you do amounts to nothing. No two people are alike, and it’s got to be that way in music or it isn’t music…You can’t even be like you once were yourself, let alone someone else. I can’t afford to sing the same song the same way two nights in succession, let alone 2 years or 10 years. If you can, then it ain’t music, it’s close-order drill or exercise or yodeling or something, not music.” -From, “Lady Sings The Blues,” By: Billie Holiday

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The History Behind The Song, “Self-Destruction”


“Carli, one of the leading rap record executives, and George, now the Black music editor for Billboard magazine, decided to make an all-star rap record and donate the profits to charity. They called their project the ‘Stop the Violence Movement,’ after a Boogie Down Productions’ song. Carli asked Boogie Down Productions’ youngest member, Derrick ‘D-Nice’ Jones, to produce the track. Both she and George enlisted the help of the most popular rappers in the genre: Chuck D and Flavor Flav from Public Enemy, KRS-One and Kool Moe Dee, Heavy D, the members of Stetsasonic. The young prince of rap, LL Cool J, still smarting from his battle with Kool Moe Dee, was the lone holdout; but he helped a female rapper named MC Lyte write her verse. Ann Carli’s own artists, DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince begged to be included, but Carli felt that their image was too ‘soft’ for the project, and might detract from the record’s credibility with the ‘hard rocks’ they were trying to reach.

Recruiting the rappers for the project turned out to be easier than securing a record deal, even with the star-studded cast. Russell Simmon’s Def Jam and Andre Harrell’s Uptown Records passed on the project, because the executives didn’t think they could make any money on it. Tom Silverman very much wanted the record for Tommy Boy, but Carli was turned off when Silverman explained to her how they could donate all the artist royalties to charity, while keeping the profits from the record’s distribution for themselves- just like EMI had done with another charity record called ‘Sun City.’

In the end, Carli came home to Barry Weiss and Clive Calder at Jive, who agreed to donate everything but the cost of the project to the National Urban League, for programs combating Black-on-Black violence.

The video for the song, ‘Self Destruction,’ was the largest-ever gathering of rappers on one record, uniting the biggest names in hip-hop for the common good. In the video, KRS-One rapped to his colleagues from a podium at Harlem’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, blaming the ‘one or two suckas, ignorant brothers’ for the violence, not the rap audience. While Kool Moe Dee contributed one of the most memorable phrases (‘I never ever ran from the Ku Klux Klan,/and I shouldn’t have to run from a Black man’), the video featured other extraordinary moments, including the sight of former adversaries Red Alert and Marley Marl standing beside each other in a cemetery, over a plot that few but insiders knew was the final resting place of DJ Scott La Rock.

The video, released in the late winner of 1989, was carried to televisions across the country by Yo! MTV Raps, and sold enough records to raise $500,000 for the National Urban League.

The Stop the Violence Movement was largely New York’s response to a local incident. Tone-Loc was the only out-of-towner to make a cameo in the video. But Tone-Loc participated in California’s answer to ‘Self Destruction’ the following year, when he, Young MC, Ice-T, MC Hammer, Digital Underground, NWA, and others joined forces to create the West Coast All Stars, and their antiviolence song, ‘We’re All in the Same Gang.’” -From, “The Big Payback” By: Dan Charnas

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Music, Sports, Melanin & Overall Excellence

“This relationship between melanin and musicians recalled to mind an experience I had at Howard University twenty-five years ago. In the summer of 1971, I enrolled in a class entitled “The History of Jazz,” which was taught by Donald Byrd, the jazz trumpeter. Occasionally Mr. Byrd would invite other musicians to give the lecture. One evening, jazz guitarist George Benson met with our group and discussed his experiences in the music industry. He shared a story with the class which explained the concept of the blue note.

Most jazz aficionados are familiar with Blue Note Records, one of the most popular recording labels. R&B fans associate the word with the Philadelphia-based singing group, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes. Blue Note was a term popularized by African American musicians, but most people outside their circle were unfamiliar with its meaning.

Benson told the story of a discussion which took place between several African American jazz musicians during a gig in France. One of the musicians said he was approached by an aspiring French musician after the completion of a set. The Frenchman confided to the brother that he had listened to his performance over several evenings and took copious notes of the music that he heard.

The Frenchman stated that when he returned home to play the music he had jotted down on pieces of paper, the music sounded strangely different. The jazz musician let out a hardy laugh and told the Frenchman, ‘the problem, my brother, is that you can’t hear the blue note.’ Benson went on to explain that during the 1930s and 1940s, African American jazz musicians referred to the blue note as a range of musical notes that only African people were capable of hearing and feeling.

The various forms of musical expressions created by Africans in America (Spirituals, Blues, Jazz, Rhythm and Blues, Rock ‘n Roll, Rap, and Hip Hop) have sustained the recording industry. The music of African Americans has given America a sense of soul music and dance that has influenced musical traditions throughout the world. This represents just one aspect of how melanin systems function in the bodies of African people.

Similar achievements have been made by African American football, baseball, and basketball players. The very nature of professional sports was transformed when teams became integrated in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. Historically, African Americans were excluded from sports because of the racist, white supremacist feelings exhibited by team owners, players, and fans alike. Jackie Robinson transformed the soul of baseball and opened the door for the giants who followed. Muhammad Ali brought a flair to boxing which had not existed since the days of Jack Johnson. His talent and outspokenness made him the most recognized human being on earth. Throughout the entire history of the game of basketball, there has never been a player like Michael Jordan.

The historical record will show that African American athletes have added an element of excitement to their games which has revolutionized professional athletics throughout the world. However, one should not think that exceptional performances by Africans is limited to the stage and the sports arena. When given an opportunity to compete on a level-playing field, Africans generally excel. In light of this fact, one has to be truthful and admit that there is something unique about African people. Melanin can help explain that uniqueness.” -From, “Survival Strategies for Africans In America” By: Anthony T. Browder

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Guns & Drums: The Power Of The Drum

“It was the slaves’ day off. About twenty of them of things rolling on Sunday, September 9, 1739, breaking into a warehouse less than twenty miles south of Charlestown, South Carolina, grabbing guns and powder, and shooting sentries that got in their way. They were African born, with memories of life in the Kingdom of Kongo (modern Angola, Cabinda, and the Republic of the Congo). Many were former Angolan soldiers. Now they were soldiers once more.

They marched from the Stono River heading south for Spanish Florida, where other escaped slaves had been granted freedom. Along the way they gathered guns and drums. The cadence they beat on those drums drew more to their ranks, as did their songs and the banners they carried. They shot whites as they found them, spared a tavern owner who had been good to his slaves, and burned plantations. The rebels could not, however, kill all of their tormentors. The lieutenant governor escaped their onslaught and returned with a brigade of planters and militiamen. Outnumbered and having lost the element of surprise, the rebels were defeated by the following Sunday. More than forty blacks and 20 whites were killed in what was called the Stono Rebellion. Stono was the largest slave revolt to shock the colonies in the eighteenth century.

After it was over, the governor of colonial Georgia, expressing his concern over the insurrection next door, filed a formal report to a representative of the Crown:

‘On the 9th day of September last being Sunday which is the day the Planters allow them to work for themselves, some Angola Negroes assembled, to the number of twenty…Several Negroes joined them, they calling out liberty, marched on with colors displayed, and two drums beating, pursuing all the white people they met with, and killing man woman and child…They increased every minute by new Negroes coming to them, so that they were above sixty, some say a hundred, on which they halted in a field, and set to dancing, singing, and beating drums, to draw more Negroes to them, thinking they were now victorious over the whole Province, having marched ten miles & burnt all before them without opposition…’

Dancing, singing and beating drums: a unity expressed in performance. The drums communicated beyond the reach of the voice, and beyond sight. They moved bodies to join in brotherhood.

After the Stono Rebellion, South Carolina stopped importing African-born slaves. Too unmanageable. This hiatus lasted ten years, and when the colony again ventured into ttrade, it avoided slaves from the Congo-Angolan region. Colonial legislators frantically passed the Slave Code of 1740, banning chattel from using or even owning drums. The overall law forbade drums and swords alike, making clear how South Carolina viewed the instrument: as a weapon.

That was how white colonials valued the drum. They had their own tradition of military percussion, and drawing on it, they understood the slave music as a call to war.

But to black Carolinians, the rhythms of Stono meant war and more. Drumming was a way of representing yourself as an imposing force, a way of demanding respect. As historian Richard Cullen Rath puts it, ‘The [Congolese] court tradition, which manifested itself in the drumming and dancing that so intimidated planters, was a means of directly representing and displaying power…[It was] perhaps the original form of broadcasting.’

South Carolina’s ban on drums stayed on the books for over a century, all the way to the Emancipation Proclamation. But, failing to understand the African use of the instrument, the colonial legislature achieved a meaningless goal. The cadence continued by alternate means. One legacy of the Slave Code was the bondsmen found other ways to keep rhythms alive without a drum: Writers of the time record a skill amongst slaves for tapping with different parts of their bodies, hitting the floor and wall with sticks, clicking, banging, and most of all, dancing. That patting, tapping, dancing all flowed into the body as surely as it flowed from it; it was absorbed and passed on to new arrivals. There was a kind of underground flowering after 1740, a sharing of skills that made the drum unnecessary at the same time that it made drumming ubiquitous. Rhythm created community. It brought the news.” -From, “The One: The Life and Music of James Brown” By: RJ Smith

[SIDEBAR: Guns & Drum is a hot name for an album or a song!!]

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