Posts Tagged ‘Music’

The date is December 10, 2014, I am up late watching the Late Night Show with David Letterman, up to the stage comes, my now favourite rapper, J. Cole and he is performing an improvised verse as an introduction to one of his songs on the now critically acclaimed 2014 Forest Hills Drive Album. The entire verse was a hard hitting social commentary on the state of affairs in America, particularly amidst the uproar following the controversial police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. It was powerful, but the part that stood out for me was his assessment of the Presidency of one Barack Hussein Obama aka number 44. His Obama report card read as follows:

“I’m so elated, we celebrated like Obama / waited until his last day in office / to tell the nation, brothers is getting their reparations, hey! / A man can dream, can he? / No disrespect, in terms of change / I haven’t seen any / Maybe he had good intentions / But was stifled by the system / and was sad to learn that he actually couldn’t bring any/ That’s what I get for thinking this world is fair, they let  a brother steer the ship and never told him that the ship was sinking…”

The sentiments in that performance echoed one of the many thoughts I too had about the impact of the Presidency of Barack Obama, which at its inception seemed (at least to some) to beckon a new day in America and perhaps the world, yet at the end or nearing it one can’t help feeling disappointment. Ever since that day and that performance I have been writing this blog post on the legacy of Obama on and off in my mind. A lot has happened since then and the nature of the mental essay has shifted back and forth many times, but seeing snippets of President Obama’s farewell speech and watching a video of him spending one of his last days in office serving a meal to his White House Staff alongside his family has reinforced how all over the place my feelings regarding his legacy are.

The mental essay on this day has stopped at a point where my mind sees many Obamas, in fact what I initially thought were three Obamas has now manifested as four in my mind:

  • Candidate Obama
  • Symbol Obama
  • President Obama
  • Barry O the person(a)

What will follow are my incoherent and summarized attempts at explaining what I mean by these Obamas and what each means for his legacy.

Candidate Obama

A politician is a politician is a politician and generally we don’t speak positively about politicians. In Jamaican vernacular – “dem a wicked” or so most people would like to believe. But something about this well-spoken young Senator representing Chicago seemed different not the least because when had what many considered a funny sounding name. Candidate Obama just seemed to resonate with everything that is positive and what one would want from a new breed of leadership. He was young and naïve enough to think differently from established norms even to a fault. He embraced young people and embraced them where they were through seemingly unprecedented use of social media. He created a message of hope for the future and the possibility of positive change all while sounding like the most engaging spokesman or dare I say preacher in the process. Put even simpler, Candidate Obama was a joy to see at work and to listen to. Also key to the appeal of Candidate Obama was the potential of him becoming a powerful symbol – the First Black President of the United States of America.

Symbol Obama

Election night November 4, 2008 is here, the ballots have been counted and the formerly unthinkable has indeed happened. Independent since 1776, the land of chattel slavery and Jim Crow elected a black man, a black man named Barack Hussein Obama to its highest office. A black family was to take residence in that big White House that was actually built by slaves. No wonder, that from Washington, to Kingston to the Motherland, black people all over the world were overcome with emotions. Along with the lifting of the US Embargo on Cuba or the granting of reparations as a result of the transatlantic slave trade, America having a black President is one of those things that “they” said would never happen in my lifetime. I am typing, but my words by no means can capture the genuine feeling of accomplishment, euphoria and pride many persons felt with the breaking of this impossible barrier.

But the pride and the symbolism did not end just with the victory for the past eight years, and especially in the wake of the nasty under belly of the 2016 election campaign, the luster of this lovely family residing in the White House, showcasing for the world to see that the impossible can be possible and all persons no matter who they are can aspire to be what they want to be. All while exuding class and elegance.

President Obama

Honeymoons don’t last forever though, and the luxury of being a hopeful candidate that is a monumental symbol had to give way to governance. Back to the J. Cole song. Many persons, particularly the African American community almost bestowed a messianic hope on the shoulders of Mr. Obama. Undoubtedly persons with such lofty expectations were bound to be disappointed as a man is just a man and even more a politician. Even more than that I have come to the conclusion that the Institution of the President of the United States is bigger than any one of its holders and like J. Cole I honestly feel Mr. Obama may have been constrained from being any revolutionary change agent by this reality.

So in his farewell speech he listed his achievements and they are clear, the ship was sinking in many respects not least the economy. Whatever measure may choose without getting into graphs and charts, under his watch the US emerged in a good position on the other side of the worst economic recession since the 1920s. In terms of domestic safety and security, the statistics suggest America is safer than it has ever been. “Obamacare” was passed and depending on who you ask that has been positive as well. For others “marriage equality” is also seen as a positive.

But serious shortcomings are there as well especially on the international front. The exponential use of unmanned drones as a war tool and the deaths of many innocents and non-innocents, the devastation of Syria and Libya are things that can be laid squarely at the feet of this administration. On the home front, whether his fault or not , it seems the killing or brutal treatment of persons of colour by members of law enforcement with almost impunity has skyrocketed, with many detractors feeling as though the president has lent his voice to other issues far more than the plight of primarily the black community.

On balance, as a non-citizen of the US that has to live in a world where the US is the major super power, I cannot in good conscience say I believe the Presidency of Barack Obama has significantly affected us in the developing world in  a positive manner. Many persons may see this as too kind an assessment as by many measures the world could be worse off.

Barry O the Person(a)

Unequivocally, I am not a fan of President Obama. Perhaps that is why, I have developed this Multiple Personality Disorder for him because I cannot shake the guilt of wishing I could hang out with him though. Barack Obama the person or at least the persona that we see publicly is so cool, so smooth on so many levels. He is seemingly down to earth, he is au fait with the latest Music, he is able to have meaningful conversation about the latest sporting event, he uses local slang when he travels and even more admirable he appears to not lord over the “small people” that he is “The Leader of the Free World.”

What is perhaps the cherry on top is the public relationship he has with his wife and children. The man never ever misses an opportunity to “big up” the love of his life and their children. He appears to be a serious family man that puts his family before even the stresses of Presidency.

As I said before, as a basketball fan and knowing his love for basketball as well, despite all my misgivings about Barack Obama I can’t shake the feeling that it would be an honour to play a game to 21 against Barry O and talk about life.

Legacy

A lot has been said above without being able to say all that was meant but ultimately in 8 days the White House will again revert to its more natural hue, though with a tinge of orange. Feels like the “Change We Can Believe In” days were just yesterday but alas time waits for no man and Mr. Obama’s fate is with the history writers now. I’m sure like Fidel Castro it is his hope that history will judge him fairly and positively. He has marks on both sides of the score card probably more on the failure side if I am totally honest. But his other manifestations, particularly Symbol Obama and Barry O the person(a) have left an indelible mark and I have no doubt in my mind that under the current political circumstances, even his harshest critics, myself guiltily included, will miss him and miss him sooner than we think… like within a week we will miss him BIGLY.

The part of this song quoted above can be seen at around the 2:35 mark. (No copyright infringement was intended and “Reasoning With The Cunning One” does not own or take responsibility for the content  of external links. – ALWAYS WANTED TO SAY THAT LOL)

 

Happy New Year to one and all.

Normally at the beginning of the year I would be at pains to compile a year in review blog. The closest I will come to saying “New Year, New Me” is to deviate from that annual rite. I am starting the 2017 “reasoning” with the views of someone else. Not a 100% sure how the etiquette goes but this is the first guest blog featured on “Reasoning With The Cunning One.”

What follows are the Guinness Stout inspired words of one of my greatest friends Mr. Ricardo Perkins who explores, in brief, the tensions between the society at large and the police with dancehall music and the dancehall space. As the cliché would have it…the views expressed do not NECESSARILY represent the views of the management of “Reasoning.”

 

“I have always been a great fan of Bounty Killa; by no means does this translate to him being the perfect role model. However, one must acknowledge, the awesome talent he is and the many times that he has stood up for what is right: and by doing so have made most of us proud! There is no doubt that he loves dancehall music, and there’s absolutely no doubt that dancehall is important to the PEOPLE OF JAMAICA.

If you are from what we call a ‘garrison’, you know that ‘corna dances’ mean that peace is upon us. Persons can move more freely with a reduced fear of being caught in the right place at the wrong time. Maybe, this perspective has biased me and has forced me to think about the (maybe little good) in something that was laden with negatives. What am I talking about- one of the best performances I have ever seen! And it was FREE! On December 29 (3am) Bounty ignited the crowd at the weekly PepperSeed. After about a 20 mins wait to apparently call some police for the show to continue, the permission came and the Killa flourished- with some of what I think are his greatest music, those from the 90’s. The crowd was moving, the performer having fun, no worries as we all enjoyed ourselves. I am sure- Beenie man fans (in fact, I think he was in attendance), Kartel fans, Movado fans were present, but this night we were all attuned to the Killa. Then midway the flourishing, the bad news came- police are back and they want the music stop! Terrible idea. I mean really terrible idea.

Let me first be clear- I despise the noise abatement act and its particular quest to put a dent in dancehall, maybe, because it is too ghetto. But, I won’t get much into that because that is another debate. Back to the Killa- and the moment I applaud. He refused to stop performing…and yea, yea, he should respect the law, the police, blah blah blah… All this is true, but we should be willing to accept what he was saying, shouting angrily, crossly, miserably had many truths. Picking out a few; “offica a chrismuss, mek we hav some fun”; “offica, we nah do nutten wrong”, “offica, a tings like this why people nuh coordinate with unu”. All of this while continuing to perform as patron relish at the graceful distaste shown to not just the police that were present, but POLICE. In the midst of this ‘angry’ outburst aimed at the police qua killer of peaceful vibes lie some truths. The need for police to actually be attentive to situations, and be willing to adjust where the gain would be much more that the lost and missed opportunity.

I can only imagine the ‘forwards and pull-ups’ the gentle police officer would have gotten if he had come on stage and said something like “people listen up- the time pass and unu haffi leave, but guess what- a chrismuss and we affi be kind to one anotha. Turn to u bredrin and sistren beside u a sey merry christmuss and mek we work together to change the new year. We all in this thing together. So u see tru a christmuss, unu hol da 25 mins ya- Killa u see you, the poor people governa, dem ppl ya listen to you. So me waa u tell dem fi stop wid the bag a foolishness and stop kill the ppl dem. U know waa me know unu a video- tek the supe numba- don’t start type enu, we know unu nuh waa ppl think unu a informa, so just record the video and when nuh baddy nah look ( but show u pikney dem) write it down and call me when unu know anything- see it ya, Bounty a me witness, me nah go call nuh name when unu shout me. Gwaun tru Bounty and mash up the place. But memba 25 mins. We agree to that?

Can you imagine what would have been the reaction of the crowd and the possible gains in the right direction for the police if it had gone this way instead of Bounty force performing, resenting the police, while speaking out against the many bad things going on, including the recent rise (or at least reported) crime against females? Imagine that video going viral, many getting the number of this Superintendent- it might not be a lot, but it would be a step in the right direction. Of course, there would have been icing on the cake if the police buss two lyrics.

This incident should call us to reflect on what we can do moving forward, it is clear that we need innovative ways fighting crime. And if we are serious, we must be willing to give people more opportunities to have the feeling that we are in this together. Maybe allowing a peaceful dance attended by ‘big people’ is a step in that direction. The fact is, we are really in this together. But I guess- the question is, of how much more importance is stopping a little noise in areas where little-to-no-persons are gravely affected match up to an actual desire to fight crime.

Big up the Killa, the people that stuck it out, the police for doing what is their current job, the soup man, the jerk man, the man dem whey a park, all hustlers.  Peaceful New Year! ”

 

 

Ricardo Perkins is a Graduate of Kingston College and the University of the West Indies. He is also a Jesuit and is currently studying Philosophy and Applied Ethics at Loyola University. He also states his claim to fame as dominating “The Cunning One” on the basketball court.

If you have read my blog before or even perused the archive you will realise that by a country mile my primary focus is usually on the most topical happenings in the social economic and political realms. However there is a category in said archive called “Random Me Stuff.” This episode of Reasoning is definitely a “Random Me Stuff” edition.

Sitting at my desk assisting the work day in becoming palatable by listening to the discography of the legendary Hip Hop/ Neo Soul band “The Roots” the melodies and superb wordplay had my mind drifting to “the good ol days” of my vintage. Overcome with nostalgia my mind couldn’t escape the need to jot down a list of some of the many things from my childhood and youth that I miss greatly.

90’s & Early 2000s Hip Hop/ R&B Music

With the inspiration for this mood outlined above it is only right that this list starts here. Whether it is the playful ABC rhyming of the Fresh Prince and DJ Jazzy Jeff on songs like “Parents Just Don’t Understand”, the Bipolar, thoughtful and belligerent Tupac Shakur that would “Hit ‘em up” one day and teach us to “Keep ya head up” the next.  Maybe it is the crooning of real singing groups like Boyz II Men and Jodeci. Bringing it forward thoughts move to the undeniable word play of Jay-Z. Tracking back, the more conscious, soulful Hip Hop of Mos Def, Common, The Roots and Talib Kweli. I could ramble on this forever but rather than playing the grumpy grandpa that I have become and bash contemporary music, I’ll just rework the thought from Summertime by the Fresh Prince and Jazzy Jeff and instead of being shocked that “the smell from a (bbq) grill could spark up nostalgia” I’ll blame this feeling on a YouTube suggestion.

Innocent TV Shows About Teenage Years/Puberty

I don’t know about you but there are some TV shows that have a direct connection in my mind with my transition from “likkle pickney” to pubescence. Shows that just got it. Shows that understood the moment the first girl you ever liked looked at you. Shows that knew that friends at school were the first source of information (usually full of crap but still) about relationships and sex. Of Course that is followed by the eternal peer pressure. Shows that depicted family life for all its pros and cons, good days and bad days with siblings good days and bad days with parents. Some that come to mind for me are “Boy Meets world”, “Wonder Years”, to a lesser extent Soul Food: The Series and last but definitely not least The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. This classic show transcended just thoughts of growing up but spanned the gamut of family life and lessons mixed with straight up laughs. TV today is cool and all can’t deny that but… I miss those days.

McDonald’s

Let’s keep this one short as the nutritionist, the doctor, the blood pressure machine and BK loving Jamaicans aren’t going to be happy with me. But for me, and at least three other people I know who will remain nameless, the day that the Golden Arches disappeared from the Jamaican landscape was a true tragedy and a sad day in the annals of Jamaican history. Just typing this right now I can feel the oranegish/yellowish box that held my beloved Quarter Pounder with Cheese on my fingertips. Burger in one half of the box fries in the other. Sad I tell you sad. I have to move on though the depression is steadily growing. Ronald we miss you dawg.

Youth Itself

Rather than continue this list of random memories what is becoming clearer and clearer as I type is that the truth is, sparked by a handful of YouTube videos, I am just really appreciative of the childhood and adolescence that I was blessed with. On the other side of Mother’s Day I must unequivocally declare that I have a pair of parents that I would never ever ever trade for anything and they created an enabling environment that allowed me to just be a child and grow up at my pace. As an adult each day gives me reasons to realise how great they were and how much they did for us without much fanfare.

Pausing the mushy part for a bit, ADULTHOOD IS THE BIGGEST SCAM IN LIFE. As a youth you spend your whole childhood yearning for the day when you get big. “I won’t have to listen to anybody, I do what I want when I want.” The sad part is when it hits you that the thing you want the most now that you have reached this hallowed adulthood, is to reverse the clock and fully spend the time enjoying every single blessed moment of that youth.

And that is the advice I just recently had to leave a young friend with who was cursing her youth. Not even being too far removed from my youth I can honestly look back at it and say those days were legendary and a treasure that I will never forget, and with the exception of a few “perks” of the now, would readily trade for and go back.

But alas, Benjamin Button is but fiction. Life, we must endeavor to move forward and grow and not just in waist size but in mind and relationships and emotional maturity. But lucky for us, although life is a forward trod, it never hurts when we get a chance to look back.

 

SELAH.

 

Today has been an interesting day. All around the world people acknowledge February as Black History Month – A time where the achievements of “ye mighty race” are commemorated and revered. Among black intelligentsia there is a sort of love hate relationship with black history month and its usefulness and I too grapple with both sides of the spectrum and probably fall more on the love side but that is for another day.

Back to today being an interesting day, whilst February is known worldwide as Black History Month, Jamaica Land We Love is biting off a piece of that ethos and zeroing the focus on perhaps Jamaica’s biggest gift to the world and that is REGGAE MUSIC. Today becomes interesting as it is the Birthday of the undisputed King of Reggae: one Robert Nesta Marley, but you can call him Bob. The commemoration of his birthday this year has taken on the feel of the unofficial launch of Reggae Month celebrations. (Special mention to the legendary Bunny Rugs of Third World who also would have celebrated his birthday today and the Crown Prince of Reggae Dennis Immanuel Brown whose earthstrong was on February 1)

Feeling a real roots rock reggae vibe today I have spent much of the time listening to music from The Wailers and Bob Marley and the Wailers as well as reading their story and examining their discography in detail. This has led me to several conclusions:

1)The catalogue of the Wailers and Bob Marley and the Wailers is probably unparalleled in the world across any genre for absolutely classic songs.

2)Reggae music puts one in a calm and reflective and insightful place in a way that I think no other type of music can come close

3)Reggae Music, and Jamaica by extension has had such an enormous impact on the world that we have yet to even come close to fathoming

4)It is probably the biggest shame in music history that the Original Wailers: Winston McIntosh, Robert Marley & Neville Livingston did not end their careers making great music together. Although without their parting we may have been robbed of some of their great individual successes as well as the emergence of the “three little birds”

5)Besides the obvious, that Bob Marley is an exemplary candidate to be Jamaica’s next national hero the most significant thought I had about the great Bob today is that there are several reggae musicians that did individual things better than him and may have been even more talented than him. Tosh was a sharper “stepping razor” of a rebel. I personally believe Dennis Brown and Freddy McGregor may have had the smoothest voices in Jamaican Music. Some may have done social commentary better and some may have done lovers rock better. But if one thing is certain Bob epitomised better yet epitomises the quintessential total package who can go toe to toe with anyone in all these realms and in my mind that is what solidifies his greatness.

As I sat here trying to gather my thoughts I expected them to be wax far more poetic and profoundly, but I guess I was not blessed with the lyricism of our reggae greats of which Nesta was the paragon. so rather than ending with my incomplete thoughts I will depart with the musical genius of the man himself. i.e. My Favourite Bob Marley song ever (which changes frequently) and my favourite Bob Marely Music Video ever. Also a few words on the man from those he would have had the greatest influence on even from the afterlife – His Children.

Give Thanks

No matter how badly some “go against the grain” people moan and groan, the 64 day trial of the most polarising figure in Jamaican music since Bob Marley back then has been THE single most watched story for 2014. Many of us spent days at the edge of our seats getting the latest updates from our favourite courtroom source. Special mention must be given to the likes of Ms Live tweet aka Emily Crooks, Dara Smith, Anthony Miller and (can’t leave out the Fortis) Abka Fitz-Henley. These people truly brought this courtroom into our respective living rooms.
So what has this Kartel Trial taught me?

1. Whatever praise we wish to heap on our current commissioner of police, it is patently clear that a level of unprofessionalism at best, and corruption at worst still reside in some sections of the force. So many examples emerged, notebook(s) lost, almost seemingly “embellished” evidence etc. but what really solidified it for me was the scant regard which arguably the most important evidence was treated. Really? Officer dem really so desperate for free nights that them use the evidence whilst in custody. Even more than Kartel, the ineptitude of some of our Police officers was on trial and some judgement need to be handed down quickly

2. There is large section of society that no matter what the evidence was wanted Kartel to be locked away and the key to disappear like the plane… (too soon). No matter if the defence was able to raise the most gaping holes in the prosecution case “di bwoy fi get lock up.” Not a big fan of the convicted either but I am not 100% sure if I feel comfortable with how all aspects of this case went. At the same time I think he did it so it’s like arriving at the right answer in a math equation with the wrong “working out.” Either way people must look into themselves and decide is Kartel the root of all evil and by extension is dancehall the root of all evil

3. On the other hand and even more disturbing at times is the #FreeWorldBoss crowd. The “I don’t care if he did it as long as mi artiste can do road and buss two chune” crowd. Can’t even put properly into word the degree to which this crowd irks me. It started with “free buju” maybe even “free jah cure”. If a man does a crime I think that outweighs my love for their music and they should suffer the consequences of their actions. It saddens me that LIVES (cause most people forget that there were two cases) don’t matter to some as much as a “bubbling tune” from di teacha.

4. Unemployment or underemployment must be higher than reported. I might be exaggerating, but the amount of persons who had the time to in the streets whether in support of or anti-Kartel was mindboggling.

5.When the old people tell you watch the company you keep, or you reap what you sow, they know what they are talking about. This case was sad as I honestly saw no good guys. Lizard was not a saint. We accept that a life is a life and the loss of any life is sad but His death and the conviction of his alleged killers should sound a warning to all. You can’t live in folly and escape negative repercussions.

Now it’s time to sit back, wait on the circus to continue as there will be sentencing, appeals perhaps a law suit by Shane Williams and endless coverage and social media conversation. My only hope is that everyone’s interest in Justice and fairness does not die out with the cooling off of this story.