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April 26, 2005

FLASHBACK: Left Me Lonely

When We Were Queens...>

MC Shan's "Left Me Lonely" was one of the first Hip Hop songs I loved that met with Moms' approval. I could bump it over and over on her turntable (which happened to be a Technics...hmmmmmm) and even use her amp and speakers. No worries. I mean, MC Shan's lady thoroughly dissed him, dismissed him, and left a Dear Shan note on the mirror with her lipstick. But he never called her a "bitch," "hoe," or even "skeeza" behind the shit. See, if my moms turned on the radio today, she'd lose it. If she heard the Ying Yang Twinz "Whisper Song" she'd go the fuck off. Understandably. That's what this blog is all about. How'd we get from the pyramids to the projects? And how/why are we repeating the same process again with OUR culture, going from "Left Me Lonely" to "The Whisper Song"? They say if you don't know the past, you won't know the future. The answer is out there somewhere, if you know where to listen. Keep your ear to the street.

She used to tell me that she loved me all the time
I'd turn to her and say that, 'I'm
Infatuated by your lovely smile
And some day soon we're gonna walk the isle'
She'd say, 'You're my everything, my strength for life,
Be the mother of your children, as well as your wife'
She used to tell me all the time, I'm her one and only
But she ran with another man and left me lonely

[ VERSE 1: MC Shan ]
Coincidental how I met her
But when I seen her I knew that I'd get her
Can't let her step, she look too good
But my wears made me seem like a stone cold hood
I'm a lucky guy, so I press my luck
I step to her, ah what the fuck
Went her way, took a few steps past her
Got the nerve, and then I asked her
I said, 'Yo baby,' and she started to reach
I said, 'Whoa, don't get excited, that's a figure of speech'
She told me her name, gave her number and all
And when I stepped, she said I better call
It took about a month, but she was finally mine
Everything was going smooth, we were doin fine
After a while it wasn't no thing
We were either holding hands or she was under my wing
She used to whisper in my hear I'm her one and only
But she ran with another man and left me lonely

[ CHORUS: TJ Swan ]
Girl, why'd you have to leave me that way?
I love you to this day
And it hurts to think of the words you used to say
Girl, why'd you have to leave for so long?
I never did you wrong
And it seems we had such a love that was so strong

[ VERSE 2: MC Shan ]
On the day she broke out, would you believe I cried?
And it hurts so much to think of how she lied
I shared everything to the very last penny
Somethin that you really can't do with many
Since this young lady was such a big winner
I'd treat her all the time to a candle light dinner
Have a violinist play a real sweet song
And she never showed a sign that somethin was wrong
My boy used to say "Man, Shan, I'd quit her"
But she seemed so happy everytime I'm with her
We used to hold hands and walk in the rain
And on the days I felt down she eased my pain
This was just too far-fetched to believe
To think that my girl would just up and leave
Imagine that - I just couldn't
Cause I knew deep down in my heart she wouldn't
All of a sudden a lot of things changed
She started actin funny, I mean a bit strange
We had little squabbles, arguments, fights
Wild stories in the days and stayed out nights
I'd say, 'Baby, where you been for all that time?
She cuddled me close and say that I'd
Be the one that she call her only
But she ran with another man and left me lonely

[ CHORUS: TJ Swan ]
Girl, why'd you have to leave me that way?
I love you to this day
And it hurts to think of the words you used to say

[ VERSE 3: MC Shan ]
She put it to me plain, couldn't put it no clearer
Lipstick written on the bedroom mirror
Said, 'I'm leaving you now
And I know that you'll miss me
You're probably sayin
Damn, man, why she dissed me?
But you see, I felt that it was time to go
Then I packed my bags, and I'm leavin, so
You take care and I hope you live long
And don't worry, there's nothing that you did wrong
You'll find the right girl someday, you'll see
Why I'm the type of woman that must be free'
I said, 'Why me?' and fell to the bed
Reached for the 9 and put it to my head
And thought about the words that she once said
(Shan, you know that you're my one and only)
But she ran with another man and left my lonely

[ OUTRO: TJ Swan ]
O-o-o-oh girl, oh my girl
Why'd you have to leave?
Leave me so sad
Girl, you broke my heart
Oh, you drive me wild
You leave me by myself
All by myself
Girl, I don't know what to do
I'm so mad
Girl, you drive me wild
Ooh so wild
Baby drive me crazy
Leave me by myself
Leave me all alone
By the phone
I don't know what to do
I'm so mad
Girl, you drive me wild
Oh so wild
When I saw you leave me
Makes me want to cry
Girl, I'm breakin down
Breakin down
Yo, I don't know what to do


Stop Gender Discrimination/Sexual Exploitation at The Source

Who's The Ho??!!

Please sign the petition against The Source. This is the full text of the petition.

To: David Mays, Raymond Scott


After two top female executives at The Source magazine filed a sexual harassment suit against their former employer on Monday, April 11, 2005, the co-owners of The Source, David Mays and Raymond "Benzino" Scott, both responded (on two separate occasions) by impugning the sexual reputation of one of the two plaintiffs, Kim Osorio, the former editor-in-chief of the magazine.

In an April 11th statement reported by www.allhiphop.com, David Mays said:

“It is a fact that Ms. Osorio had sexual relations with a number of high profile rap artists during her employment as editor-in-chief.”

The following day, Benzino was interviewed, also by www.allhiphop.com, and said,

“[Kim Osorio is] screaming sexual discrimination. What we're gonna do is counter sue her because that's totally false because especially when we have record of—we have proof of her having many sexual relations with a lot of the artists that she was actually interviewing a lot. And we will counter sue her for defamation of character and then after that, we'll just let the courts decide it.”


1. We condemn David Mays’ and Benzino’s response to the suit. The notion that Osorio’s sexual history (real or imagined) has any bearing on whether or not her claims are legitimate is ludicrous. Michelle Joyce and Kim Osorio’s claims will be evaluated by the courts, but the responses from the Harvard-educated Mays and the self-appointed community leader Benzino certainly seem to indicate that the top staff at The Source condone and reinforce a climate of discrimination against women. Basically, their argument boils down to the classic “She’s promiscuous, so she couldn’t have been sexually harassed,” so the responsibility for the harassment lies with its victim, as opposed to the harasser.

2. While we understand that the music industry is rife with little-discussed sexual perks, we hold journalists to a higher standard. Female journalists in particular have long understood that sexual relations with subject matter undermine any attempts at objectivity, clearly compromise the integrity of the magazine, blur the line between professionalism and personal pleasure and reinforce the sexist stereotype that women write about hip hop only to sleep with rappers. We in no way condone such behavior. That said, we are equally aware that Benzino’s and Mays’ accusations against Osorio are a calculated attempt to obscure the issue at hand: Does The Source engender a climate of harassment that makes it difficult if not impossible for its female employees to do their jobs without feeling demeaned, devalued or threatened?

3. In The Source and other magazines, women of color are only valued as available sexual objects, a relationship that clearly goes back to slavery and imperialism. Yet they are expected to stay loyal and quiet about sexism and injustice in their own house, and when they choose to raise the issue in public, they are again reduced to sexual objects. We are disgusted at the fact that while Mays and Benzino and other community leaders claim to be concerned about injustice, they are clearly exploiting racist and racially divisive stereotypes of women of color.

4. We call on the so-called community leaders who allegedly asked Benzino to return to The Source after he had resigned Friday, April 8, to take a stand against the sexism of both Benzino and Mays. After he put out a press release on April 8, stating that he had stepped down from The Source, Benzino recanted on Monday, April 11, announcing his return. According to the latter release, “Reverend Al Sharpton, executives from Black Enterprise, David Mays, and others insisted he retain his position for the good of the cause.” We are deeply concerned that a community leader like Sharpton, who professes to be seeking a more humane hip hop industry, would align himself with a magazine that so clearly ignores the humanity of women. We urge him to respect the concerns of men and women equally, and to use this opportunity to examine the working conditions of The Source specifically, and the sexism that women who work in music journalism and in the music industry experience on a daily basis.


The Undersigned


LADY PINK's brick lady...>

Juxtaposition Arts is a non-profit youth focused visual arts organization engaging audiences through its community collaborations, studio arts workshops, public mural programs and special festivals and art exhibitions. Two visual artists [and one Hip Hop wife] founded the organization in 1995 as a means to engage artistically inclined urban youth in high quality creative experiences in ways that are practical, relevant, and life-changing. Juxtaposition Arts exists to nurture and channel creativity by providing community outlets for young people to create and show fine art.

I met DeAnna Cummings through our collective advisory board for B-Girl Be. DeAnna was co-curating the gallery exhibition, which is now open at Intermedia Arts, and I didn’t know much about her except that she’d done a great job gathering together art from women all over the world. One day after a meeting at Intermedia, we hooked up with DeAnna and made our way over to her organization’s spot on the Northside of Minneapolis. Like all cities, Minneapolis is divided, segregated and subjugated. Intermedia Arts, which is a wonderful organization, is located in the “nice” part of Minneapolis.

Juxtaposition Arts, however, is in the ‘hood, deep in the Northside. But it’s all good. That’s what it is. Juxta’s for the kids. DeAnna, who is the Executive Director of Juxtaposition, her husband Roger, and his artistic partner Peyton do amazing, inspiring work in the community, educating the youth and giving them space to move, groove, create and devastate while taking in Graffiti, Hip Hop music, Breakdancing and the history of the movement and culture. But the thing that struck and impressed me most about Juxtaposition Arts, besides being a safe space for youth to create, is that they’re giving young people ways to make a living doing Graffiti art, murals, customizing sneakers with Graf designs, airbrushing clothing, and finding myriad ways for creativity and commerce to coexist.

So I wanted to share with you this excerpt from DeAnna Cummings’ memoir-in-progress, A HIP HOP KIDS GUIDE TO CHANGING THE WORLD. The words following are her own, and as DeAnna states, “some may argue with the dates or other details of this piece. They can feel free to tell it their way when they tell it but This Is My Story.”

I first met Hip Hop like so many people living in Middle America, through “Rappers Delight” the first ever Top 40 rap hit by the Sugar Hill Gang. KPRS radio in Kansas City, KS was giving the cut mad spins – like every other radio station across the country in 1979. I was 9 years old in 4th grade at Stony Point North elementary. I now know that rap (I didn’t know of the word Hip Hop yet) was 5-10 years old by then. Popping and B-Boying was developing on both coasts. Aerosol writing had been around for a decade plus. But for me—a country girl from Kansas City it all started with “Rappers Delight”.

Thinking about the time period from 1979 to 1982 and my becoming acquainted with Hip Hop music, I get an indescribable feeling in my body and heart remembering the times—roller skating in my cousins basement, and the songs—“The Breaks”, “Funk You Up”, “The Message”, and “Double Dutch Bus”! I had a certain affinity for this music from the start. There was an edge of rebelliousness. It was at the tail end of Black Power and urban unrest. The end of Caring Carter. The beginning of Wretched Reaganomics. Rap music reflected all of this to me. But I didn’t think of it as very different than other contemporary music of that time – “Bustin Loose”, “Ring My Bell”, “Bad Girls”, “Rock with You”, “Let it Whip”. To me Rap was just an extension of disco and R&B.

It wasn’t until moving to the Twin Cities in 1983 the summer before 8th grade that I came to know of Hip Hop as a unique youth culture.

My family arrived in Minneapolis via Greyhound bus and spent a summer living on the Northside. Then right before school started we got a sweet brand new townhouse in a Southeast Minneapolis low-income housing co-op. There were a grip of kids in my new neighborhood who where around my age. Boys mostly. The only other girl was my friend Vickie who is three years older than me—which is a lot older when you’re a 13. I have four siblings and a foster sister. Six kids total in my house. Three bedrooms. One bathroom.

My mom is a former Black Nationalist organizer. Panther Party wife. Kansas City girl, by way of Los Angeles by way of Minneapolis. In the early 80s incantation of herself Moms worked a full-time job as the Human Resource manager at the Lake Street K-Mart. Her evenings were filled with meetings of the Minneapolis Civil Rights commission, letting off steam with friends, and other grown folks stuff. Us kids were alone a lot. I was the oldest and in charge of the brood. We were one of the few families in the co-op that had cable TV and a VCR. Obviously, for all the right reasons, our house was the neighborhood hang out spot.

The Twin Cities vicinity to Chicago and people moving here from East and West coasts for all the jobs meant it is a much more cultured city then my hometown in Kansas. Almost immediately upon coming to Minneapolis I came to realize that Hip Hop was what was up with kids here. I don’t remember an exact spark, but it came to my awareness like a wave rolling in. Suddenly it seemed like everyone was wearing Adidas, Kangols and Kazals. The boys from my neighborhood would congregate at my house. We’d watch MTV and rented videos trying to catch a glimpse of a kid doing a windmill, a fresh popper, or a dope freeze. They would move our living room furniture up against the walls, flatten out a cardboard box, rewind the video over and over again and practice for hours.

It was very free form. It wasn’t about building a Hip Hop culture or making history. Just kids teaching other kids what their cousin taught them. Organizing practices. Building without realizing they’re building. As my grandma used to say though, “hindsight is 20/20”. Meaning our attempts today to codify and record the history of Hip Hop doesn’t exactly match with the way I remember it. It all sounds a bit too contrived – like it was planned, orderly, methodical, revolutionary. The stories—including this one—are told with nostalgia. My friend Tom Bowman (former B-Boy, always lover of Hip Hop) describes it as our generation trying to make sure we have our Hip Hop credentials. Pontificating about “Being down since day one!” But in reality there wasn’t an official Day One. There was only each of our own Day Ones. A bunch of kids 12-16 years old, exploring who we were individually and collectively. Building on this developing art form. Practicing. Studying videos. Going to parties. Getting in fights. Rocking fresh gear. Going with a new guy. Breaking up. Meeting another. It was about your skills and love and having fun. Pretty simple.

Movies such as Wildstyle, Stylewars, Breakin’ and videos on MTV fueled the fire. Pretty much everybody I knew was a B-Boy back then. The majority were breakers. (The Circuit Breakers were from my neighborhood.) A few caught tags. MCing was just starting to bubble in the circles I hung in. Only a handful of girls were breakers or mcs. I mean you could count the females on one hand who were active participants in the culture. Most girls hung out and watched, cheered, commented, and eyeballed future boyfriends. Except for brief flirting with graf / tagging, I fell into the latter category.

In 1984, I was a freshman at South High. On my 2nd day of school a Minneapolis B-Boy named Roger asked me for my phone number, called me that night and in short order we proceeded to fall in love. He was a breaker, popper and graf writer. He had an early 80s Prince, El-Debarge thing going on. I was gaga! There were many haters. We became inseparable in a tumultuous passionate teenage love kinda way. My priorities shifted from studious schoolgirl/southeast Minneapolis hoodrat to “me and my guy against the world”.

After a summer stay in Los Angels my foster sister, Stephanie came back to Minneapolis and showed us all how to do Cholo letters. I took up tagging briefly over the summer and into the fall of 1984. Everywhere we walked Stephanie and I would write “Giggles” and “Dee”. Each of us had our own version of a smiley face character to go with our tag. In October or November 1984, Me, Stephanie and Roger got hemmed up at Washburn High School for tagging on every locker on the 2nd and 3rd floor of the school. It was in the middle of the day. The three of us were enrolled at South High, but on the frequent suspensions program, mostly for having too many unexcused absences. Roger was in the middle of a 3-day suspension. Stephanie was just getting off a one-day suspension and was supposed to return to South that day. I, always a foot in both worlds (nerdy book worm / urban vandal) decided to take the day off too and head up to Washburn with my compadres to visit Stephanie’s boyfriend/Roger’s best friend Donald.

Upon arriving at Washburn – we just walked right in as schools were unlocked with only a few security folks roaming the halls back then. To our pleasant surprise we discovered that over the weekend Washburn had installed brand new lockers– bright orange, shiny new surfaces that were begging to be broken in. The three of us walked down the 2nd floor hall then up the stairs and down the 3rd floor corridor, marking every locker with our fat black signatures along the way. One of us at a time would work each side of the hall. Then we’d switch sides and hit the other row. Our plan was for each of the three of us to tag every locker so kids at Washburn would know that Giggles, Dot2 and Dee were there. We were about halfway though our plan when out of nowhere the Wasburn Hall monitor rolls up – chases us through the school and eventually catches us

We were in HUGE trouble. We waited in the office for what felt like hours terrified that the school was going to call the police. I was physically sick waiting for my mom to come pick us up. Me and Stephanie sat there holding hands and shaking with terror anticipating what was going to happen when my mom showed up. See my mom was not to be fucked with. She was/is the most intimidating person I know. Everyone was scared of her. No one wanted to suffer her rath. Case in point – mom picked me and Stephanie up from Washburn and we rode home in total silence. She dropped us off at home then went back to work and told us she’d deal with us later. After work she came home and picked Stephanie and I up, saying we were gonna take a little ride. Mom drove us to a deserted area along the Mississippi River and parked. She got out of the car to pick up a glass beer bottle, then got back in the car pointed the bottle at us and said “I am going to break off the bottom of this bottle, cut our throats and throw your bodies into the river. No one will every find out.”

From the official ranks, our Southeast Delinquents Crew received a light punishment by today’s “zero-tolerance” standards. A 2-week out of school suspension, and a $500 fine each. No cops. No jail time. My mothers’ fury was the worst of it. Still my appetite to Do Graffiti was thoroughly satiated but Roger’s hunger grew bigger.

Around 1987 Hip Hop is in full effect in the Twin Cities. The culture is well formed by now. Cats are specialists in particular elements. There are fewer B-Boys and more mc’s here than in the early days. Roger is known for his skills as a writer and is getting pretty steady work doing custom graffiti jackets, commissioned backdrops, drawing party flyers. Basically he’s getting his hustle on, making money with his art. I have assumed the unofficial role of manager, comrade, organizer and wifey. I bought him his first airbrush as a birthday present. He hadn’t really thought about using airbrush before, but I figured he’d be nice with it and he’d have more options to make money.

In 1988 Roger became a member of Traviton’s Hip Hop Shop. The Hip Hop shop was one of the first if not THE FIRST Hip Hop radio show in the Twin Cities. It aired on KMOJ 89.9 on Saturday afternoons. It was Travis Lee’s show and Roger was a member of the Hip Hop Shop Posse. Roger would answer the phones and read the list of shout outs from people who called the Cool Check In line. He and the other three posse members were like hype men in a lot of ways, they gave Trav someone to play off of. In addition to the radio show, Trav was putting on a lot of parties at this time. Roger and the possee carried the crates, did the party flyers, and helped out wherever necessary to keep it flavorful. I remember going to Trav’s infamous parties at the U of M Coffman Union. Almost 1,000 kids would pack the Great Hall. We’d watch performances, dance, battles would erupt in the crowd, while someone was on stage. Kids are sweating, cheering, betting on who would win, making out in the corner. It was bananas!

Flash-forward about 5 years to 1993/1994 and me and Roger (we’re married by now) and our friend/B-Boy/artist Peyton formed a three-way collaboration that eventually became Juxtaposition Arts. Juxtaposition Arts is a nonprofit visual arts organization committed to providing creative space for kids who live in Minneapolis' urban hood known as the Northside. We also use Juxtaposition as a platform to promote, educate, and create connections within and about Hip Hop. At Juxta kids get hands on instruction and experience drawing, painting, sculpting. They study art history looking at the work and life of traditional masters alongside graf legends like Dondi, Phase 2 and Futura. In the summertime the kids do outdoor murals. Most often spray paint and markers are the tools of choice.

Juxtaposition is the manifestation of a group of Hip Hop kids who wanted to build a place for youth who grew up like us—raised by single moms, growing up in low-income housing, "at-risk"—but with a desire to create and express ourselves. In the organization's lifetime we've done afterschool and school residency workshops with more than 2,000 Twin Cities youth and provided opportunities for old heads and up and coming Hip Hop kids to hone their craft and get experience teaching the younger generation. We've hosted national and international graf icons in Minneapolis -- Lady Pink, CASE 2, Blade, Crash, Daze, Daim, Blue, Muck and TATS CRU.

As Juxtaposition Arts approaches our 10-year birthday, I find my self-reflecting on whether we've done enough, and what should be next? Writing this piece has been good for me, it has got me to really think about my first experiences with Hip Hop. Those early days of freedom, love, unbound creativity, and passionate pursuit. It's a reminder that what I'm doing and will continue to do is important in and of itself; just giving kids space, and freedom, and access to creative people. A place where they can move the furniture out of the way and dance—moments out of which they might be inspired to do whatever their thing is in their own way. Maybe that's the gift me and the other grown folks who are the Hip Hop generation can give to the kids of today. Kids who seem to be in desperate need of space where they can figure out who they are and what touches their souls and one day write their own histories.

April 25, 2005

The 5-Year Plan

A young B-Girl rocks for the crowd in Puerto Rico at "Express Your Skills"...>

You know, I got into it online with a couple of cats and chicks recently about the Hip Hop vs. Rap aesthetic. So funny to me when I was googling earlier today, how I wrote this piece on Davey D Dot Com in January of 2001. And I'm still mercilessly kicking the same truths five years later. And not much has changed. The only real difference is that today, I'm involved in activism. I've been featured on a lot of radio shows recently. I've been getting more and more requests to speak on panels, and now magazines want to interview ME. So let's go back and revisit Why Do We Need The Music Industry?

Why Do We Need
The Music Industry?
by - Miranda Jane
1/30/01 7:44:30 AM

why do we need the music industry? we, the people, do not. to break it down in simple, mathematic terms the industry is a tool of the 10% used to control 90% of the mind capacity of 85% of the people. Example - only 5% of the music used to "entertain" the people also serves to educate them. conscious, enlightened, underground MCs - so-called 'backpack rappers' with incense and licorice root... you just don't see those artists on the television much, nor hear them on the radio, as much as you see and hear 'bling bling'.

Ballers, playas, pimps, hustlers, and all types of cats (and chicks) are all in my ears, and all in the babies' ears. they're in our eyesight and earshot constantly these days through radio, cable television, news media, the car next to ours and even on our own car radio. or in the man's car next to you.

Think about it. why are people trapped like rats in a maze? how high can we increase the murder rate befor its too late? how much baby mama drama can one generation withstand before forgetting who their fathers and mothers are? it's our lifelong exposure to the industry and its minions distracting us from the truth.

Of course it adversely affects our babies and our selves. we grow up on a malnourishing diet of television and music created for the sole purpose of causing our collective mental to become desensitized toward violence, misogyny, hate and disrespect.

The industry. 'the industry' seems to cause the greatest troubles here in america, where often your right to choose comes after someone else's right to choose for you. if you ever meet someone from another country just visiting here, you will hear of some of the problems we experience here happening in their native lands. however, only in america do as many people kill each other - senselessly, one by one like this son of a united kingdom's people have done.

'Crabs in a barrel' in japan means there are crabs in a barrel literally, not as a figure of speech to describe the reality of many people in america. in japan, it is truly all about the yen. there is never time nor circumstance in which it would be proper to mention yen, much less to praise it or worship it. respect and 'face' are far more valuable than the yen.

In denmark are there projects? is there pollution in europe? even the graffiti overseas is more of a diversion than a national issue or a crime. art is often done simply for the art. hey, life is just easy like that sometimes.

So if you really want to walk through babylon, visit the true capitol of america - new york city. here 'the industry' lurks in every corner, even under the train tunnels. walk through the tunnels of hell, the next level. vibe, the source, xxl - the big 3 in print magazines, a few entities dominate a lion's share of the gross income from advertising sales, from subscriptions, etc. the record labels are another story - hundreds of labels are out there passing money around to each other, or so it seems from the surface.

Scratch beneath the surface, and the truth will come out. There is now a big 3 in distribution and the powers that be above the record label level. factor in the liquor companies with majority control over many of the distributorships. examine exactly how deep this shit goes.

Then ask yourself, why is that? why do we need the music industry? we, the people, do not.

miranda jane

HIP HOP (Feminism) 101: Class is Now in Session

Originators, Pioneers and Foremothers/Forefathers...RESPECT!

HIP HOP (FEMINISM) 101 Hip Hop is a culture, born on the East Coast of the United States circa 1968; with roots in Jamaica, the Caribbean, and Africa that date back before history. Rap music, the “pop” music form of Hip Hop music, began commercially in 1979 when Sylvia Robinson of SugarHill Records put together a slap-dash group of rappers to make the group The Sugarhill Gang. They recorded a track called “Rappers Delight,” biting rhymes from original pioneer MCs like Grandmaster Caz and other foundational MCs. Thus, commercial Rap music was born.

But there’s much more to it than that. Hip Hop culture manifests in myriad forms and activities – primarily Breakdancing, Graffiti Art, DJing/Turntablism and MCing/Rhyming – as well as Beatboxing and Afrika Bambaataa of the Universal Zulu Nation’s “fifth element” of Hip Hop, Knowledge. So to speak on knowledge, one of the questions I’m often asked on panels and discussions is this – Is Hip Hop a Black culture, is it a Black art form?

There are a lot of underlying issues within the roots and foundation of Hip Hop culture and music. Hip Hop and it’s art forms were born in the slums, birthed from the youth and the have-nots who needed and wanted to represent themselves in an original, fresh way. And while African-American men comprise the majority of the pioneers of Hip Hop, it must be stated that MANY women were also pioneers including Lisa Lee, Pebblee Poo, Lady B (Philadelphia), The Mercedes Ladies, Shaka Zulu Queens, Sparky D, Tonya Winley & Sweet Tee, Lady Pink, Eva 62, Barbara 62, DJ Wanda Dee, DJ Jazzy Joyce, B-Girl Baby Love, B-Girl Headspin Janet, B-Girl Sista Boo, and many others. And while Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Dominicans, Bajans, Jamaicans, and many other Caribbean born émigrés were part of the first wave of Hip Hop culture, and they do retain much of their own cultural identities from their native lands, each of these groups has their roots in the African diaspora.

And on the other hand, this culture is an American culture, the daughter of Jazz – and save it’s mother, the only American cultural form of music that has spread around the globe and affected every nation on this planet. There are many books on the art forms, and one of the best is New York Ricans from the Hip Hop Zone, by Raquel Rivera. I recommend that those new to the culture or just beginning to study Hip Hop literature read New York Ricans first, because it is one of the few books that directly speaks to the pioneers of Hip Hop who didn’t identify as “Black” but as Puerto Ricans, Cubans, and Dominicans with their roots in Africa. Another important book to start with is Vibe’s Hip Hop Divas, paying particular attention to two of the articles by Hip Hop “herstorian” Cristina “Dulce” Veran. Her pieces on the wax/discography of Women in Hip Hop, as well as her Women in Hip Hop timeline; are fundamental reading for anyone wishing to getting an education and moving on to Hip Hop 202.

I recommend all of the below-linked books because they are written by women and people of various races/nationalities. It’s important to saturate your mind with images and historical representations of the whole picture – and to avoid reading/studying materials prepared by and for (but not about) white men attempting to tell the greatest stories never told. It’s fine to read their books as well, just as it’s fine to listen to Eminem – but only after you’ve studied the greats and listened to the originators. I’ll be back with another lesson focused on the music, but for now, delve into some of these texts to learn more about Hip Hop, the richest culture every born in the United States.

One Love,
Miranda Jane

New York Ricans in the Hip Hop Zone by Raquel Rivera

Vibe’s Hip Hop Divas

Can't Stop, Won't Stop by Jeff Chang

Check It While I Wreck It: Black Womanhood, Hip-Hop Culture, and the Public Sphere by Gwendolyn D. Pough

When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost: My Life as a Hip Hop Feminist by Joan Morgan

Stand and Deliver: Political Activism, Leadership, and Hip Hop Culture by Yvonne Bynoe

Rap Music And Street Consciousness (Music in American Life) by Cheryl Keyes

Ladies First: Revelations of a Strong Woman by Queen Latifah

The Political Action Handbook: A How-To Guide for the Hip Hop Generation by Maya Rockeymoore

Word: Rap, Politics and Feminism by Adrienne Anderson

Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America (Music/Culture) by Tricia Rose

April 24, 2005

From Ink to Pink

Hip Hop's Got My Back...>

I've received numerous requests to show the detail of my tattoo, and rather than line you all up and pull up the back of my shirt I decided to drop a large-size image right here on How'd We Get From the Pyramids to the Projects. The significance of the piece is this. I travelled to Puerto Rico in 2004, where I was blessed to link with the B-Boy crew TIME MACHINE SQUAD, who took me all over the island and showed me how beautiful the Hip Hop scene is living en la isla Encantada. My big homie BLEN ONE TDS has the tattoo shop All Star Tattoo in Ceiba, and he forced me to get some ink from him (and wouldn't let me pay). I literally had 30 minutes to decide what I wanted and where on my body, and I immediately knew the only thing I could trust to have on me forever is HIP HOP; my life and culture. The "I" is made from a spraycan, 'cause Graffiti is the 1st element of Hip Hop, dating back to the late 1960s. The "O" is made from a vinyl record, because DJing is the 2nd element of Hip Hop, dating back to the early 1970s.

The piece isn't finished, it's a big tattoo and my back was on fire by the time Blen was done (even though he has a very gentle tattoo hand, comparable to Mr. Cartoon). So, Insha'allah I'll be back in Puerto Rico again soon for round two; to get the outline refined and some bold colors/designs inside the letters. Besides reppin' hard in Graf (big up ZORI 4) and B-Boying (Time Machine Squad, Floorlords), Puerto Rican MCs like Siete Nueve (79), Tego Calderon, and DJs such as DJ Nature (who also produces joints) are holding shit down in PR, so if you ever have the chance to travel there check out the amazing culture of Hip Hop en espanol de los Puertorriquenos. Estan Yayo (They're DOPE).

To learn more visit Phantom Vox and hear some Puerto Rican Hip Hop on their internet radio shows.


<...Last Night Changed it All...>

The Lesson is Conducted From the Mic Into the Speakers...>

Last night changed it all
I didn’t play the wall
Last night a DJ saved my life
He dropped that
He made me feel so weak
Two technics spinnin
Had the fly girlies grinning
He put the needle on the record
And pumped that bass
Last night the DJ in the place to be
Took me back to the E-S-S-E-N-C-E
Scratched the record three times
And brought me back to the present
He rocked some of that Hip Hop
Right on time, plus lessons in the rhyme
He made me listen between the lines
‘Cause it sounded so sweet
He cold cut, scratched, transformed
With finesse
Dropped another beat
He blessed the 1s and 2s
While he blended
That extended remix
Threw in a couple of tricks
Damn he’s a turntablist
He set it off
Just so we could floss
And get lost on the dance floor
All night long
Til the break of dawn
He knew which jams to mix in
And which jams to play long
Like some old school
Five minutes of funk
Anyone playing the wall
Was just being a punk
‘Cause we ain’t stop
Til we reached the top
So international
We did the Planet Rock
The DJ transformed
Back to the present
Dropped that C-Rayz Walz
We just stopped
And crazy rocked
He had us wildin on the dance floor
Footwork and uprock
He played the beat non stop
We was steady breakin
Top rock to pop lock
He brought that break back
Somebody busted the Tut
Then he threw on some G-Funk
Cut it up with some P-Funk
808 shaking the speakers
Like bass in the trunk
He took us to the Westside
Arabian Prince
Egyptian Lover
He told us
You can’t stop
The batter ram
The shit is crazy
Back in the day was hazy
Til the DJ brought me
Back to Life, Back to Reality
He put the needle on the record
Rocked it down to the bone
So fresh
So dope
We rocked the spot all night long
Sundown to sun up
To the breakadawn
Brought back the Steve Martin
And the Pee Wee Herman
We wopped it out for a minute
Then got crunk like down south
He dropped another break beat
That made us do the freak
His style was so unique
He blended Portishead
With Memphis Bleek
Then cut it up again

Cold rockin them technics
Some old shit from Stetsasonic
Into JJ Fad’s Supersonic
The crowd was dead
Until they heard the DJ rock
Then they got live
And too hype
Everybody dancing
No time to fight
No strobe light
Just MC Lyte
The DJ did us right
From the darkness came light
Our memories came to life
I’m only married to the beat
Just a Hip Hop wife
Selector brought it back again
I ain’t gotta tell ya’ll twice
Last night changed it all
Last night a DJ saved my life…>