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January 11, 2008

Jamaica, Nature's Koolaid


Movie poster from Tragedy: The Story of Queensbridge, Still Reportin' album cover, & Tragedy and Ching Bing runnin' the streets of NY

"You love to hear the story again and again/
of how it all got started way back when/
The monument is right in your face/
Sit and listen for a while to the name of the place...
The Bridge, Queensbridge/"
- "The Bridge", MC Shan

This is the actual, factual, true story of how I became a journalist, how I met Tragedy Khadafi (the person who re-named me "MJ"), and herein lies a review of the first documentary film about his life. Read about it...

QB is the largest housing projects in North America, with 96 buildings. Over 3,000 miles away, in Mar Vista Gardens, one of L.A.'s smallest projects, I got my first tattoo from a cholo with an electric toothbrush motor for his tat machine. Sitting in the basement headquarters of 4080 Hip Hop Magazine some years later, I took a call from Zenobia Simmons, then publicist for Penalty recordings. That call would soon send me to Attica, New York to the Wyoming Correctional Facility, to visit Kiam "Capone" Holley and interview him. A small part of our Q&A would be published in Trace Magazine alongside a N.O.R.E. feature. It was my first trip to New York, and I decided to stay awhile.

The first temp agency I looked up in the yellow pages got me a job at "a record label, I think they do rap," Gee Street Records. I ended up working for Jon Baker as his personal and executive assistant. One day, he sent me up to Spring Street to deliver some papers. I walked in the building, went up to the office, and saw Sincere, Screwdriver, Agent, and the rest of the 25 to Life crew. A few minutes later, Tragedy Khadafi walked in.

Upon being introduced to me, he immediately realized who I was. "You're that lady, the writer, the one who been going to see Ki." He showed me mad respect, and mad love. He gave me some money from the stack in his pocket to put on Capone's books the next time I saw him. Tragedy told me that I had to keep in touch with him, and that he wanted me to come to the 'hood so I could see where it all started. Queensbridge - where they say that there's something in the water, something to make a majority of the residents nice with theirs when it comes to hustlin, rhymin, or both.

After 9 visits upstate to see Capone, writing our interview out on napkins and scraps of paper with the tiny golf pencils provided for visitors & inmates' card games; I was done. But I still had my job at Gee Street, and business had brought me in touch with Tragedy more than a few times for it to be a "coincedence". So I called him one day and he invited me to QB. I rode the train up, and called him from the payphone in the station. He gave me directions of where to walk up, so I went, and waited. And waited. When he finally did come to meet me he brought 20 or so youth from Queensbridge with him, and he told them, "that's Miranda Jane, she's a journalist, you want to be like her when you grow up, stay in school and you can be a writer like her." At that point I didn't really consider myself a journalist, but I felt golden.

It was 1997, really 20 or so years after the height of Hip Hop in New York, and the jams in the park, or in the case of QB, the jams under the bridge. So we stood in that spot, Tragedy and I, and we built a foundation for business, education, and friendship that stands to this day. It's been almost ten years, but we always stay in touch somehow even though we're constantly moving around the country. As a matter of fact, I had to save this as a draft a few lines back 'cause out of nowhere, seemingly, Trag called to give me his report on what's goin on out there. Mind detect mind, King...mind detect mind.

So when I sat down to watch the screener copy of the feature film, TRAGEDY, THE STORY OF QUEENSBRIDGE; I watch with my eyes accustomed to the gray, foggy environment of QB in the winter. My vision's already been acclimated to the poverty of the Queensbridge Housing projects, with it's endless towers filled with struggling youth and adults who've, in many cases, given up on life. Tragedy's own story, for the most part already known to me, is a multi-faceted kaleidoscope of pain, suffering, poverty, struggle, revolution, uprising, and...tragedy. The film reveals much about his personal life, his personal pain, and all that he overcame to become one of our generation's greatest unsung heroes of Hip Hop. With cameos from Poet, Delorean, Corleone, Capone, Havoc, Killa Sha, Littles, Marley Marl, Synysta, and many other QB MCs, artists, and 'hood legends, the truth about Tragedy Khadafi and his illustrious career thus far is finally revealed; as well as the real deal on how he lyrically fathered QB's most famous MCs.

Fact. Tragedy's father was a street legend who died at the age of 18. He never saw his son in the physical form, and Tragedy never saw his father save in dreams or later when his mother showed him a picture. Fact. Tragedy's mother became a heroin addict, leaving Trag and his brothers and sisters to fend for themselves; and Trag would often steal groceries from the nearby Associated supermarket to feed them. Fact. He started writing rhymes on the stoops, benches and stairwells of Queensbridge housing before he even became a teenager. Fact. Between working with Marley Marl, Poet, and Popps Mobb; Tragedy recorded songs like "A Tragedy" in his early teens, and became the youngest member of The Juice Crew; even performing in that legendary park under the bridge. Fact. Queensbridge legends like Nas, Havoc of Mobb Deep, Capone of C-N-N, and so many more would never have reached their status without the example and mentorship of Tragedy Khadafi. Fact. Tragedy's career was (and still is) put on hold more than once, interrupted by a run-in with the law and an unfortunate incarceration. Fact. Tragedy Khadafi isn't a criminal, he's a revolutionary from the street, and a 'hood educator. Fact. Tragedy, The Story of Queensbridge, is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the story of Tragedy Khadafi, an Intelligent Hoodlum, and his birthplace, Queensbridge Housing.

This film is a documentary, with certain events reinacted by family and close friends of Trag. At the moment the film is screening at various film festivals as the filmmakers seek distribution on the national and international level. Visit
www.tragedymovie.com for more information and for trailers of the film. प्लेस अदद ऑउर म्य्स्पस.कॉम पगेस म्य्स्पस.कॉम/tragedykhadafi म्य्स्पस.कॉम/auraradio andIf and when you're able to see the movie in its entirety, watch with an open mind ऎंड an open heart, as some of the facts of this film contradict the media myths about QB certain of QBs sons. True story.

- MJ , Love is Love