The “Real” Hip Hop

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I hadn’t watched the Rah Digga interview on Thisis50.com (http://www.vibe.com/article/rah-digga-iggy-azalea-shade). So I ignored the comments about her talking about Iggy. Mainly because I wanted to sit back and see what was being said (I saw lots of good points on both sides). I also wanted to take a moment with the interview. I finally watched the interview. I have no comment here about Iggy. I will save that for the barbershop, my classroom, a Hip Hop show, or my favorite bar. You know, places where the conversation would be fun, unlike on Facebook. LOL. But there are some interesting things that came up that I see come up often in other debates about Hip Hop and rap music.

First, the term “real” gets bastardized by folks who argue on both sides of it. Neither want to admit that. Generally I see folks having a debate over the term and when I go back to the source and look at the context of how it was used, it often is about foundation and standards. Hip Hop is a culture. Cultures have foundations, traditions, standards, and idealogies. As a product or representative of that culture you can build on those things or adapt them to new environments, but you must always honor them. There is a responsibility to the culture. Without that responsibility you can’t claim the culture. Or folks can say they don’t see you as a representation of the culture. Doesn’t mean anything about that person, but it does say something about the way culture should be considered. With care and understanding. It’s why I hate when people have conversations that should be about rap (which widens the scope and better fits some of the arguments) and use the term Hip Hop. Because it clouds and muddies the conversation.

Those folks who say that Hip Hop music can be a number of things are right. It can be. Because the tag Hip Hop is through the representative and not the musical output. So folks making music (rap included) who have no care or concern for the responsibility to the culture can be said to not be Hip Hop. Folks making rap music or Hip Hop influenced music don’t have to run around waving the Hip Hop flag. That’s not a requirement. They are artists and should have the ability to make what they want. I don’t rock with people who want to make artists carry the torch because they make a certain type of music. I teach kids who look Hip Hop all the time. Not all of them claim the culture. But anyone who is said to claim the culture (whether out their own mouth or by the powers behind them) has a responsibility. That also means they can checked on how they represent the culture they claim.

Lastly, I haven’t seen much talk about the powers that be. That was one of the key things in Rah’s statement. The comment she made about R&B and categories in general was real insightful. There is power in the words that are used. I don’t necessarily agree with the term “real” being used. But I understand it’s not always (as some would like for you to believe) used to contrast something that is “fake.” It is often used by culture bearers (not your homie you went to school with) to mean authentic and true to the foundation and traditions of the culture. Someone has to continue to put that concept forward because the media manipulates categories like society has manipulated the meaning of words throughout history (see etymology).

I could care less about arguing over what the artist are putting out or who they are in real life or how they refer to their friends, etc. I do care about arguments about the way the artform is presented and the balance in the media. I care about how the culture is preserved. Not as some archaic thing because there are communities across the globe who see the pillars of the culture and very necessary and relevant. Not as some out of date dinosaur. Not as some rabid and possessed demon astray in material wealth and indulgence. Not as some wide open free for all landscape with no rules. I care about their being a baseline that roots your conversations, debates, and discoveries.

Sometimes we want to reach and grab free reign so much we badly we would destroy the foundation we are standing on to get us there. Thing is, once we’ve done that there isn’t one for anyone else to stand on to reach. Then what?

Forgetting the Pain in 6 Steps

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I gave my poetry students this prompt as a opening freewrite. I decided to take it on as a prompt myself. I feel that we are often inundated with models of recognition and awareness, but what happens after that? How do you move on? What does the day after look like? These were my thoughts as I took on this prompt.

1.
Flood the lost colony of your skin in soap and water
Ignore the screams of follicles
Prayers by pores will go ignored
Draw a new nation with fluffy cotton towel
Make it an aberration
Frame it in the mirror
Play music
Celebrate
Claim it empire
Mark this moment in history on the pages of your smile

2.
Draw roses on the sidewalk in chalk
With smiley face in the middle
Call it abstract impressionism
Believe in the possibility
That you can reach the otherside of struggle
With a smile on your face
And wisdom in full bloom
Take pictures of them
Post them
Call them selfies

3. 
Draw names on pieces of paper
Make them all the people who’ve hurt you
Ball the pieces up
Throw them into plastic trash can
Pour kerosene in it
Set it on fire
Dance
Then watch the trash can melt
Remind yourself this could have been you
This is the value of exorcism

4.
Forgive yourself 

5. 
Buy legos
Set aside 2 hours
Bake cookies
Pour a glass of wine
Play music
Then spend the time learning
To put the pieces back together
With sharpie 
Label each block
Career, hope, goals, pride, friendships, faith
Practice the variations
Use super glue

6.
Cry
Scream
Laugh
Laugh again
In that order
Record it all on your phone
Call yourself documentarian
Watch it to remember you are human
Fallable
Take pride in the happy ending
Then know that you can overcome
Anything

Remembering 9-11

Remember 9-11 logo
Remember 9-11 logo

I remember where I was on 9-11-2001. I was at work at IBM. I was on break talking to a friend from NY when she suddenly says, “OMG a plane just hit the Twin Towers!” I was in shock. I asked her what was she talking about and then she says, “Oh No there is another one!” She quickly hung up the phone. I tried calling her back and there was no answer. She worked in the city and could see the towers from her office. I ran back inside to see everyone in the building in a panic. Word has spread and folks were racing to the breakroom to look at the TV. We were in RTP, North Carolina and we couldn’t believe what was happening. I finally got to talk to my friend again. After she walked across the bridge and made it back to Long Island. I will never forget that day or the day she drove us to the memorial on a visit to NY.

What also will always stay with me is the conversation I had with an elder poet in South Carolina. He was a poet and musician and we were lamenting about love. We talked about how hard it was to find the right one. About how hapless we were as romantics. He told me the story of a woman he had fallen in love with. Both were divorcees. They had met in NY. Both were so happy. He dropped her off at work at the Twin Towers that morning on 9-11-2001. He never saw her again. The story stuck with me. I eventually was able to write a poem about it. Today as we remember those we lost and the courage of those who helped people deal with and escape the devastation I want to offer this poem.

911… I Lost my Love

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder

But how fond can you be of loving a ghost

Your heart held in the hands of mist

Rising from the rubble

Dew dripping from an apple

Plucked from the tree of knowledge

That a serpent had led us into catastrophe

 

It was supposed to be the eve of a new tomorrow

But today it is this Adam not her that lives with a pain

In the midst of his ribs

Horrid memories birthed every 9th month

He had only known Eden for a moment

Before finding himself cast into a world of heartache

His hope crumbled when she did

Hit by an unexpected ill

Terrorizing their happiness, threatening their chances

 

He had met his destiny in a smoky coffee shop

Exchanged ideologies and theorized on them occupying his couch

Their lips met soon after

Formed an alliance

Fingers signing treaties on soft skin

Trade embargos lifted and they exchanged love

 

Helped each other past the terrors

That had haunted their nights

Spouses who waged war with them constantly

Each honorably discharged from the relationships

Their hearts had enlisted them to

But the past traumatic stress left them in disarray

Until they found sexual healing and love highs

They claimed was medicinal

 

The bite of the apple was so sweet, so succulent

He trusted her

Prayed it would be like this forever

Only the devil answered instead

And deleted the voice mailed to heaven

 

Gratitude turned to grief

As he watches his world fall apart

Traded joy for wretchedness

At the center of it all was the realization

That it was done but it wasn’t over

Because absence won’t let him forget her

Tombstones marking how grave his outlook has been

 

He dropped his love off at the World Trade Center at 8:15 am

Soon found out what comes after noon

The destruction of God’s blessed assurance he’d be happy

The taking of his other half

Knowing he’ll have to try 2 times as hard to be whole again

 

He calls it evening

The reaping of what he had sown into a growing blessing

He watched the news

Sinking deeper into depression

Drowning in disbelief

His spirit was flying high that morning

Who knew that plane would come crashing down

 

Why would this happen now

Realized it was because snakes hide under bushes

He wanted this one to burn

Not the towers where he left his love

Given with other sacrifices to the demons of war mongering

 

Hadn’t they been battle scorned enough

Had found Eden after the desert storm of “I dos”

Now all he could do was watch the mass destruction

Tears hitting the floor like bodies hitting concrete

Searched for an answer as New Yorkers searched for a way out

He was overwrought with confusion

Manhattan was overrun with a cloud of calamity

He can’t remembers their last kiss

Touches his lips to find that familiar feeling

 

He’s numb

Been that way for 10 years now

He is love with a ghost

Heart held in the hands of a mist

That rose from the rumble

Darkening Manhattan

Blackening his spirit

Memories are all he has to be fond of

So he stalks them for some semblance of sanity

 

He regrets taking a bite of that apple

Because if he hadn’t

He would never know this pain

Waking up every day in mourning

And wondering if he can ever love again

 

© 2008 Christopher “Dasan Ahanu” Massenburg

I’m Back!

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It’s been a long hiatus but I am back to my blog. I promise I’ll stay around this time. Lots to say, lots to write, and lots to share! It was a busy summer and I got pulled away from posting regularly. It was such a task to keep up with my 40 posts for 40 days that I needed some time to recuperate. I hope that I didn’t keep you waiting too long.

So stay tuned! There will be poems, rants, links, and more. I mean, who gave me a blog anyway? LOL.

Protest Music

NCMLA T-shirt
NCMLA T-shirt

I had the pleasure of being included in a wonderful project by a talented group of musicians. Musicians came together from a variety of backgrounds and genres to create an album of protest music inspired by the Moral Mondays movement happening at the state’s capital. They put together a wonderful album called “We Are Not For Sale.” They NCMLA big band is featured on the main side of the album. The B side is the “guerrilla” side featuring original material from invited artists.

NCMLA website

I was featured on the B side. I contributed a song entitled, “Get Free” which included Shirlette Ammons. Shirlette is a talented musician, emcee, and songwriter.  It was an honor to be on this track with her. It was produced by GTA.

“Get Free” by Dasan Ahanu & Shirlette Ammons (prod. by GTA)

The NCLMA is doing some great work. Now they have reached out to local music producers and musicians to do remixes of some of the original songs from the album. They have also asked for new originals inspired by the album. Stay tuned for more music and for performances by the NCMLA!