INVENTOS::Hip Hop Cubano
AN INDEPENDENT FILM BY ELI JACOBS-FANTAUZZI
Since I've already been, at one time or another, a target of the fbi, cia, cointelpro, lapd, nypd, hip hop cops, and other dubious "governmental" agencies; I'm not shook about getting it said. You can barbeque and get drunk all day if you want, but while you're doing that there are soldiers killing innocent people in Iraq, RIGHT NOW. Plus they're torturing "prisoners of war" in Guantanamo. Not to mention that every time you drive by a park full of Mexicans in Los Angeles, you're looking at indigineous people who are celebrating "independence" on the very land that was stolen from them where they now come to make minimum wage - or to be the mayor.
Today, I celebrate Independents. The ones who are making it on their own. The ones who are making a difference. The ones who are bombing, bucking, and dismantling the system. As Ludacris would say, the 4th of July is just another "hoe-liday" so while you're eating your "whore-dourves" and downing that 7th glass of insert-name-of-alcoholic-beverage-here; YOU BETTER THINK. Come up with an idea of your own that'll get you on next year's list of Top 5 Indepdendents. You'll thank me for it.
1. HIEROGLYPHICS IMPERIUM - I remember hearing Casual and Tajai and 'em battling Saafir and Hobo Junction and 'em on The World Famous Wake Up Show. I was sitting with my best friend Stacy and Bilal Allah (who would go on to A&R Mary J. Blige's Share My World for MCA, and eventually form his own company, Enlight Entertainment) in our apartment in Oakland, CA listening to every word. Between being pummelled, if not beaten, on the air; nearly every member of Hiero would go from having a major label deal to having a pocket linted. Turns out, they were down, but not out. Hiero reformed like Voltron and, modelling themselves after rock bands and indie punk labels, they created their own company, their own entity, their own label. They focused on merch and touring, while steadily pumping out a quality selection of CDs, vinyl, DVDs, and songs. Instead of spending their money, they reinvested in themselves, and recently these brothas bought a large warehouse building in Oakland to house their empire. They have major distribution from Red Urban Music/Sony, and they make more $ per record sold than any multi-platinum artist on a major. Furthermore, they develop talent and sign other acts to the label. That's why they're #1 on my list of great indepedendents.
2. EVOLVE UNIVERSAL - This Los Angeles-based clothing company is the brainchild of one woman. We'll call her Evolve. Some call her Jenny. She's the hardest-working woman in the clothing business - what started with a couple of t-shirt designs has blossomed into the finest independent clothing company money can't buy. An artist with roots in Graffiti and fine arts, Evolve designs every image, graphic, t-shirt and piece herself, by herself. And while she recently did a fashion show with high-fashionista shop Fred Segal, her line remains grounded in reality. With messages of Peace, positivity, Knowledge, upliftment, and Itations, Evolve Universal is more than a piece of fabric; Evolve Universal is a way of life. I salute this independent woman who has stayed strong and kept her business going all of these years; while never sacrificing quality for quantity, or the real for the fake. A true independent.
3. INVENTOS: HIP HOP CUBANO - This independent film, created by Clenched Fist Productions and Eli Jacobs-Fantauzzi, is a testament to independence. Who else but a Puerto Rican-Jew Hip Hop head from the Bay Area would travel to Ghana and Cuba, come back, and decide to make a film about Cuban Hip Hop? I'll let the words of the film speak for themselves...to quote one of the artists "We care about the world we are living in. We talk about how the rich are getting richer, while the poor are getting poorer." To quote another, "a lot of people say we're crazy, that this isn't Cuban culture. It isn't Cuban culture, but it's African culture, understand? And we are all children, descendants, of Africa." Say word. Eli edited, executive-produced, produced and directed this amazing film. Please support him at Clenched Fist Productions. Viva Inventos, y Hip Hop Cubano.
4. R.E.A.C.H.IP HOP - Founded by DJ Kuttin Kandi, and with support from Afro-Puerto Rican Hip Hop activist Rosa Clemente, the Godfather of Hip Hop Afrika Bambaataa, and support from dozens of powerful, revolutionary individuals within Hip Hop, R.E.A.C.H. is where Hip Hop lives. Through rallies and a campaign of letter-writing, emails and phone calls to Clear Channel, the group single-handedly put Hot97 in hot water when the major-market-share NYC station broadcast racist and defamatory songs satirizing the Tsunami disaster. And according to their website, it wasn't that difficult to accomplish. "R.E.A.C.Hip-Hop (formerly known as the NYC Hip-Hop Coalition) is a diverse coalition of artists, activists, hip-hop historians and writers, educators, students, and parents within, and in alliance with, the greater hip-hop community. Our initial call to action was in late January 2005, when commercially owned Hot 97 aired its now infamous “Tsunami Song.” As other communities who were targeted by this incident began to speak out and organize against Hot 97, it became apparent that a crucial voice was missing in this public protest: the voice of the hip-hop community. Thus, with the help of a few hip-hop heads, artists, and community organizers, the Hip-Hop Coalition was born." I thank the members of the coalition for showing the world we have power over everything when we choose to exercise our independence.
5. MIRANDA JANE/PYRAMIDS 2 PROJECTS - I have to celebrate myself today, because I've survived the temptations of the music industry. I built myself up from a crack-selling college dropout to become an editor of three major magazines. I did it without a degree, and for the most part without the support of my family. And when I reached the "top" in my field, becoming associate editor of The Source magazine, I recognized it for the sham that it was and made a promise to myself and to Hip Hop that I would never again be governed or directed by the politics of devils. I may not have a million dollars in the bank, or a platinum or black credit card; but let's face it, when the shit goes down everything ya'll "rich" folks have in the bank will be confiscated and you'll wish you'd had the forethought to put up a little cash, or learn how to survive with nothing. I've seen, with my own eyes, my friends turn to enemies. I've witnessed individuals and entities "turn" from good to evil. I've battled the devil, style for style, and my B-Girlisms reigned supreme. I'm sure he'll be back for round two, and again, he'll walk away with his head down in defeat; while still I rise, walking with my head held high, the Angels of my three dead sons on my shoulders. Only on a day where true Independence is celebrated can you truly appreciate my mission; the mission to inform, educate, uplift, and elevate. Even if I'm not clocking major-label dollars, to the true and righteous, my poverty and my wisdom are making a whole lot of sense.