It Ain't My Fault!!

 

   I first met Smokey Johnson when I was doing my work hours for my home in the Musicians Village. I didn't know who he was, but something told me that I had to get to know him. One of those cats who you know is real hip, but you don't know how hip they are until you talk to 'em. Even though he was in a wheelchair, he still had a certain vibrance, an energy that could only be given off by people who are happy with living. It's funny but interesting when I think about how he would hand people tools (he wanted to do something useful) and setup conversations with the volunteers. He would light up people's days with his jokes.

 

   In the village, we called him the sheriff. He would roll up and down the block, giving the local news and cracking dirty jokes. I used to love to sit and watch his interactions with Bob French thinking to myself, "that's what I wanna do when I get that age." LOL After Bob died, he would come down the street to holler at Mr. Red Morgan, who stayed on my block. Red didn't have a ramp at his house, so he have to holler Red's name from outside if nobody was around. All I'd hear was, "Reeeeddddd!!! Reeeeedddd!!" After I'd get my laugh, I would come outside and ring Red's doorbell for him. Red would come out and they would talk for hours. Sometimes I would go out and listen to them talk. Always take time to listen to the elders. They'll impart so much wisdom.

 

   Rest In Paradise Mr Smokey! Go head and join that sanctuary band! Lay that eternal groove elder!

 

Laid To Rest......

A failing sales pitch......
I love my city. I love everything about it. I love the architecture, the music, the food, the culture (where I cut my teeth), and even some of its politics. Well, not the politics as much, but it helps me understand the world better, how far peple will go for a dollar, our belief in the people, etc. 
With that being said, I absolutely hate the fact that New Orleans is becoming controversarily unlivable. Whenever I have a discussion about my city, the argument against living here is not only valid, but they tend to leave me with nothing to counter with except, "It's like that in every major city in America. (Atlanta, Chicago, New York, L.A., Houston, MIami` Detroit)" Although I believe that talking point, I can't help but to understand their sentiment. All they really want is less crime, better education opportunities for their children, decent living conditions, right?
Well, the thing that made New Orleans special was that very setiment. The crime was sky high then, but we as a unified people fought tirelessly. The education that we recieved was much greater than anything that you could judge by standardized test scores and teachers' salaries, and we still showed exemplary marks. 
Now, maybe I'm too much of an optimist, but I for one believe that if we move out and go somewhere else, we're running from something that we don't have to run from. If we, the good people, choose to stay, we can give the place we call home a fighting chance to be prosperous again, through our control. It has become common practice in America where we are so quick to just leave and give up. Our ancestors didn't teach us this. They taught us to stand up and fight for what's ours. I may not totally agree with most libertarians on much, but standing for something they believe in, much respect.
Are things different than when we were younger? Yes. Was there crime? Yes. Was the school system flawed? Hell yes! But, through something miraculous, we endured, while enjoying everyday that had been given to us. That's what we called Quality Of Life. It molded us into the very humbled, actionary, WISE, learned people that we are today. 
If there's anything I've learned from being a musician, listening is the most important part of life. It tells you that, even though this way is harder, it's more benificial. When was the last time we stopped to listen to what our city is telling us? Our neighborhood? Our block? I know for certain she's not telling us to leave.
While I do understand the risks involved with living in this city, what are we gonna say 5 years from now when she's gentrified beyond recognition? Will you want to come back then? You know the gumbo will taste different then. Why? Because we know the right recipe. So, who better than us to fix this dilemma?

Recently, my attention has been geared towards turning the radio off. I can't really think of a tme in my life when I've felt this way to this degree. The music that plays on some of my favorite stations has let me down so hard. It's got me singing some of the silliest shit ever. Who would've thought I'd be humming about this?

 

I was listening to a collection of the 100 Greatest Hip Hop Songs and I ran across the lightbulb that put it into perspective.....

There's nothing else on!!!!!!!

When I was a young and impressionable kid, on my radio I had the choice of listening to NWA AND Public Enemy; Ghetto Boys AND Tribe Called Quest; Lil' Kim AND Queen Latifah. The eclectic mix of influences help our development not only as artists, but people as well.

My musical palette (like so many other musicians) was filled with Hip Hop that not only was diverse in subject and spirit, but it also provided the mainstream audience with a choice. People have been deprived of this much needed ideal. When will the pardigm shift back to where the little man has a fighting chance of not selling his soul to get his 15 minutes? Will there ever be a time when the bottom line in mainstream will not be about profit margins? I'm not against making money, but at what cost? In the habitual words of brother Calvin Mackie "Letz Get It People!"

"Bitch Bad/ Woman Good/ Lady Better/ They Misunderstood" - Lupe Fiasco

 

 

   I suddenly had an inspiration when I got Lupe Fiasco's newest album (and hopefully not his last), Food and Liquor 2

 

Which brought me here.....

   I think this song brings about the age old argument; Where is the line between the act of creative expression, which can both inform and entertain, and the degrading act that we interpret as coonery or buffoonery? This always brings me to a crossroad because I believe that majority of what we hail as the epitome of artistic endeavor, can arguably be the very expression that tears the image, especially in Black America.

 

   At the end of the day, it all leads back to perception. In Lupe's video, he elequently states how the perception of a "bad bitch" can be misinterpreted, therefore dictating a consequence that I've seen far too many times in my life and the lives of the people around me. It is but a small microcosm of what is going on in this country. It's time for us as people to define who we are, what we do, and where we stand, without the help of a groupthink....

 

 

I could go on, but who cares.......

 

 

   As I start to collect the thoughts of August 29,2005, a lot of emotions and pictures come to my mind....

 

Then there was the soundtrack.....

 While most people had sounds of despair and cries for help, I played this one tune in the van at least 10x straight. As I cleaned the broken glass from the high winds, an inspiration came over me. The trumpeter (Terence Blanchard) was already one of my biggest influences to date, but something was relatively different about the way he played this tune. The way he preached from the instrument gave me a sense of calm/peace. Did Hodge already have the notion/vision of something like this happening and drew from that inspiration? Was it part of some universal lesson we were supposed to learn? And why haven't I thought of a tune like this? LOL

   I heard in an interview that Derrick Hodge's inspiration for that tune came from the notion that we always believe that better is "over there". What we try not to listen to is the wise word of what's already here. But, as the story of the Prodigal Son, we learn our lesson and come back home.

   That's how I feel about New Orleans....

   One of the most interesting discussions I had about this subject came when I was in college. My professor, who later became one of my first bandleaders, sat me in his office and asked, "son, what do you want to do?" After expressing my aspirations of being a artist, he said something that stuck with me. "You know, cats come to New Orleans to work on their craft. They move to New York to work on their careers." For the most part, I'm glad I didn't take his advice.

   Why? Because there's no place like New Orleans. I was born here, raised here, and hope that I can die here so they can second line all around town for me. Just don't prop me up. LOL

"I secretly would love to line up all these young, dumb, cocky musicians and slap them one-by-one. #BAM"

- Nicholas Payton on Facebook

 

   Seeing the spectacle that was Uncle Lionel's funeral, which I'm still laughing and shaking my head from, brought up (which seems to be) an age-old debate/argument. It has seemed to make its way back into the forefront of our minds as musicians and torch bearers of this music we hold so near and dear to our hearts. 

 

   But as I was able to talk to the musicians whom I look up to, I was able to notice a discovery. When you ask any cat (especially from New Orleans) who their biggest influence was, they will undeniably mention a musician that they were able to touch, talk to, or listen to elders talk about. The tradition has always been, and will always be, passed on to the next generation that way.

 

   I've developed a theory....

   There is a hierarchy when it comes to the tradition of this great music.....

   There's you. The budding, impressionable, young cubbie who wants to become someone of relevance.

   Then there's your Big brother/sister. This is the cat you want to be like because it seems as if he/she has it together. They're making the money, playing all the killin 'music, etc. 

   And then there's your Elder. This is the wise voice who ultmately becomes your biggest fan, and your most constructive critic. The elder was the one who told you that what you're doing is good, but he/she could show you how to do better. And you listened. Why? Because big brother/sister inspired you to.....

 

   Which brings the question...

 

   Who are the elders now?

Has there been a transition? Are we stuck in a limbo where we don't know who they are? Do the elders feel they're too young?

i can go on and on and on.......

But who cares?

Have you ever had that feeling

That you were in the middle

You knew which way you wanted to go

But a force stronger than you

Kept resisting that path

And now you have lost your flow

 

 

Go head, let it marinate.......

"What the world needs now..... is not another love song."

 

I've been listening to the radio lately, so you might know where I'm going with this. LOL

The question always comes up as to whether there's any music that's about love anymore. It seems as if it's always about pain, violence, drugs, criminal activity, etc.

I have a theory...

The love that was once expressed in the "golden era" is quite different. That type of love lent itself to ideas like courtship, manners, romance....

For the most part, that's pretty much all gone now. All that's left is an weird idea of what love is. Why would the music be any different? Hell, why would we expect it to be any different?

Why would we believe that core values of love (caring, sacrifice) is instilled in my generation? After all, it was put in our heads some time ago (the 80s) that money, and the pursuit of it, would fill the void in all the social gaps that we have. The musical contribution of the 90s brought us that hate love. You know, the people we can't stand to be with, but we're with them anyways. That ghetto fabulous love. The 00s didn't stand a chance.........

So, I'm gonna keep listening to the Quiet Storm, and you keep dusting off those old records. It don't get no better........

On this day, 10 years ago, my biggest role model of a man, my dad, Andrew Baham Jr., passed away after a battle with heart failure. He was my biggest fan. No one was more proud of me than he was. He would always stick his chest out and let people know, "That's my son right there!" LOL He will be forever missed....

 

   I believe he instilled in me the love and compassion that every man should have for his family. He taught me that without people who you love and care for, there's no need to conquer the world. The fact that you love your family is good enough in their eyes. You've already conquered the world. I think we as a nation can learn this very valuable lesson from real fathers......

   One of my all-time favorite movies is one that inspired me to pursue a career in this great music we call "Jazz" is Mo' Better Blues......

 

   As I was sitting there (on my little "leave me alone" time) watching this on one of these movie channels, I listened to the dialogue, which several times I interpreted as small talk. My wheels started to turn.....

 

   Did the writers for this film write for a flow, or were they making a prediction into the future? Bleek believed that his music, on face value, had enough asthetic appeal to any audience, which is his justification for the art. Shadow, on the other hand (just got the name connection LOL), had always seen his music having a more grounded connection to the people, arguing his justification of everyday change.

 

   So, are we seeing the evolved changes in the music as Shadow predicted, or are we passing tradition as Bleek's Utopian vision?

   I went to see "Think Like A Man" the other day. First, I thought it was a well put together movie with good script writing, good acting choices, even good cinematography. It's refreshing to see a black film that has that combination work well for them (unlike some black movies I've seen in recent past LOL)

   Needless to say, it got me to thinking about this controversial ideal that we call Love. Is there a validity to the principles in Steve Harvey's book? I personally believe that his characters (The Dreamer, The Player, The Mama's Boy and Non-Commiter) are a little too cut and dry. I see myself as a little bit of all those characters, depending on what phase I'm in in life. 

   Also, at the risk of seeming a bit more controversial, I think this book is pretty much a manual for women on how to control men. The fact that the men in the movie figured it out, which by the way was a nice twist, became an age old ideal: The men were dogs who found the owners' manual. 

   Now, maybe I'm wrong, but.......

   One of the tunes on my album, Treme' (written waaay before the series ever came out LOL) is a tune that was written by one of my biggest influences, Clyde Kerr Jr. At NOCCA (New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, for those who don't know), he was one of the main inspirations behind all of us there to achieve our very best. He helped teach us that life, just like music, is a journey. It was always hip to check out how he would try to explain approaching the music. "Developing your solo is like that can of beans on the top shelf in the cupboard. Ya gotta keep reaching." He will be missed....

   Those type of educators seem rare now. They possessed not only the passion for the subject at hand, but they took a much needed interest in the developing minds they were educating. In some cases, they filled the life voids where others couldn't. They commanded respect because education came first. I know those type of educators are still out there, but where are they?

 

Feel free to comment.....

 

Today is April 19.....

 

   My head tends to hang in meditation as I play "A Sister's Song (for Shelley)". It's been almost ten years. Today she would have made 39 years old. A lot of times I feel I could've done more with her, but I cherish the times we shared. She was my 1st roommate. Dudes would often mistake me for her ole' man (always funny) because we were so close. My heart tends to hurt every once in awhile. So, I sit on the porch, have a glass of box wine, and set a Black n Mild for her. Enjoy sis....

 

   But this day is not all for mourn. Also born on this day was my niece some 12 years ago. When we're together, people often mistake her for my daughter. She calls me just to see how I'm doing. She keeps me happy and grateful to have family. I thank the creator for the opportunity to do for my family as they do for me. If you're reading this, don't miss the chance to hug your children, siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents. Let them know that they are special. They are as wonderful as you can ever see them. Peace

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