Must Watch “Miss Representation” Extended Trailer on Oppression of Women in US society!

Culture, Education, Politics, Uncategorized



Akala: Bringing Hip Hop Back To Its Roots!

Africa, African American, Culture, Education, Europe, Music & Hip-Hop, Race, Uncategorized

Akala: Bringing Hip Hop Back To Its Roots!

I recently read an article entitled “It’s a hip-hop planet”  by Akala, an award-winning Hip Hop artist and the creator of the Hip Hop Shakespeare Company from England. In this article, Akala discusses the global impact and importance of hip hop music and culture explaining how Hip Hop serves as “a news network of the downtrodden, oppressed and the socially conscious across the globe.” This article was so well wrtiten and spot on in its analysis of the meaning and significance of Hip Hop that I had to find out who wrote this compelling piece. I saw the profile picture of the author, sporting a matter of fact no nonsense expression in his profile picture and a powerful Afro that expressed very similar sentiments.

Upon further investigation, a click on his profile picture, I was forwarded to another page with  link to the Akala’s own website I quickly shuttled to this page and saw a YouTube video posted there entitled “Akala – Fire In The Booth” and naturally my curoisity led me to click play. I apprehensively waited to hear this Hip Hop generation writer and educator get busy on the microphone, hoping that I was not going to hear a mediocre rap that would lessen the esteem Akala had garnished from the article I had read just moments earlier. As I listened, I was blown away with the nearly nine minute lyrical and politically charged rap. Only 45 seconds into the rap, I was convinced that I was going to watch for the entire nine minutes of the video. I was not disappointed in the least! On this one track, Akala spoke on issues like discrimination, self-hatred, for-profit prisons, lynching, Marcus Garvey, African history, false patriotism, consumerism, racism, education and the list goes on. These subjects, which are so often dodged by mainstream Hip Hop artist and the media, were championed by MCs of the “golden era of Hip Hop.” Akala has definitely not forgotten about the roots of Hip Hop and he has proved he is here to drop Hip Hop’s most potent formula on a world desperate for change.

Akala – Fire In The Booth Video

In the vocal booth and on the written page, Akala tackles “race, politics, self-deception and social conditioning.” Akala’s official bio clearly states that the goal of his art is “breaking down the culture of cliché and stereotype that smothers the genre he loves…” Not to mention, Akala is no rookie in the Hip Hop world. This brother has been turning out singles since the early years of the new millennium and he has released his third album, Double Think, this past year. Below is Akala’s Fire In The Booth version with the lyrics, in case you wanted to get every single jewel he dropped. It is clear that Akala is going laying down the foundation to become a legendary name in Hip Hop, not only due to his lyrical ability but for his commitment to uplift the consciousness and social condition of oppressed people and youth worldwide. It definitely is a Hip Hop planet and Akala is definitely what this planet needs right now!

Akala – Fire In The Booth w/ Lyrics

Philly Rapper AR-AB Shot Ten Times

African American, Culture, Mental Health, Music & Hip-Hop

Working with young people in the Juvenile Justice System has been incredibly rewarding for me. I am always learning new fashion styles, slang words, trends and rising rap artists. A few years ago, I began hearing about an underground rapper from Philadelphia named, AR-AB. I was somwhat familiar with the big figures of Phialdelphia’s Underground Rap scene, including Cassidy, Meek Mill, Tone Trump, Gillie Da Kid, , Joey Jihad, Qwilly Mills and others; so I was in no rush to look up some lesser known rap artists I had never heard of.

It also didn’t help that although I am a fan of Hip Hop I often times feel at war with the messages and influence of the “streets” that is typically the focus of these underground artists’ music. I refused to look up AR-AB on the internet, content that I basically knew what his rhymes were going to be about, hustling and riding on enemies. I felt uncomfortable and ignorant each time that a new youth would mention him as one of the best rappers in Philly.

After months and months of hearing scores of young people recommend AR-AB, I finally broke down and pulled him up on YouTube. I wasn’t surprised about his style and his demeanor. However, I was surprised with the blatant and over the top references he made when it came to selling drugs and violence. He spoke with malice, hatred and rage towards his real and perceived foes out there. He spoke of a lucrative underground illegal economy and the significant amounts of money he was making. He also spoke of how his street fame and credibility made women flock to him.

As I listened more and more to AR-AB it became clear how appealing the lifestyle is for many young people and males in particular, growing up in impoverished and disadvantaged inner city neighborhoods as they struggle to find their identities. AR-AB calls himself the “Top Goon of Philly”! His world is a world very different from the average American. His world is a world where one’s capacity and propensity to commit violent acts either overtly or covertly earns you respect and makes you many enemies in the process. Pulling young people into an endless psychological state of heightened awareness of friend and foe, life and death and freedom and incarceration.

Through listening to AR-AB’s music, I actually began to understand what I was up against even more, as a person trying to help young people get out of the justice system and move away from a life of crime. I already know that it is challenging trying to reach young people, who have many times been alienated by the wider society, seduced by the lure of the streets with its quick money, power, fame and respect. Hearing AR-AB allowed me to realize that his voice was louder and more respected by young people in the streets than my own and I needed to respect his, if mine is ever to be respected.

Despite living under the administration of the first African American president, a seemingly hopeful time, many young people have experiences and views of their world that are more closely aligned to rappers like AR-AB. It is time for professionals, teachers, academics, parents and concerned community members to listen. Although we should still be concerned about the lifestyle AR-AB discusses in his music,  his voice should be used to draw attention to the hopelessness, desperation and anger of our most marginalized youth and provide some thoughtful discussions about solutions to issues of manhood, the drug economy, violence, mental health, misogyny and hyper masculinity in Hip Hop Culture and urban life.

Coincidentally, AR-AB was shot 10 times in late September. Miraculously, AR-AB survived and is currently recuperating. It appears that he should be able to make full recovery given the small caliber of the bullets that hit him and the non vital areas where he was struck. It is my hope that this event in his life will help him recognize the damaging impact of violence in the community and create more positive and inspirational songs. This incident may only further validate his “Top Goon of Philly” status and propel him to the success of another street rapper who was shot 9 times. It is clear that AR-AB and the life he speaks of is not going anywhere. We all need to pay attention and get innovative in developing solutions to our problems. As always, leave a comment and share your thoughts!

Below are some additional videos of AR-AB rapping. In NO WAY do his lyrics and these videos represent my views and perspectives.

New Documentary – Hip Hop: The Furious Force of Rhymes (Full Film)

Culture, Films, Music & Hip-Hop

Hip Hop: The Furious Force of Rhymes 

The Grammy Nominated French ‘Afropean’ Hip Hop/Rhythm and Blues Group – Les Nubians

Hip Hop, like the Internet, is a potent tool for education and empowerment. I happen to be an enthusiast of both of these amazing tools.  While on the Internet the other day, I had the fortune of finding this incredible free documentary by the Smithsonian Channel, Hip Hop: The Furious Force of Rhymes. This film directed by Joshua Atesh Litle, embedded below, explores Hip Hop’s history and role as an instrument for empowerment and a voice for marginalized communities worldwide. This documentary begins by examining the origins of the Hip Hop universe with Busy Bee Starski and Grandmaster Caz. The film  moves from the Bronx in the late 1970s and follows the diffusion of this amazing cultural movement through time and space to cities in Europe, the Middle East, South America and Africa. This is not your typical Hip Hop documentary focusing on the meteoric rise of this phenomenon in terms of commercial viability. Instead, this documentary focuses on the ability of Hip Hop to connect people to the struggles of others in similar struggles, irrespective of their nationality, language, ethnicity or religion. It is this ability of Hip Hop, to speak to and for the voiceless, that makes it such a powerful asset for humanity. This film contains poignant and insightful commentary by the legendary Hip Hop journalist and activist, Davey D and others. This film undoubtedly shows the true power and potential of Hip Hop. It is an honor to share this film with you and I hope it uplifts and inspires you as much as it did me. It is up to us to tell the true story of Hip Hop and shape the future of our world! Let your voice be heard, leave a comment and share this with your Facebook friends and Twitter followers!

Law and Disorder in Philadelphia

African American, African American, Culture, Education, Films, History, Politics

Law and Disorder in Philadelphia

This BBC series examines  the state of the street violence and  the drug trade in Philadelphia. For me, this piece is important because I work with young men mainly from Philadelphia already knee deep in the juvenile justice system. I want to warn you that the journalist, Louis Theroux, is more of a comedian and sensationalist than a sincere journalist. However, I do think that some valuable discussions take place in this documentary including: the exploitation of the youth by higher level drug dealers, police brutality, the role of drug dealers as community figureheads, the impact of the drug trade in these neighborhoods, the lack of cooperation and understanding between police and citizens and the issue of ‘No Snitchin.” Philadelphia is one of America’s incredible cities with incredible people but it also has some significant problems that need to be addressed more effectively. What do you think can be done to make a difference? As always, watch, enjoy, learn, comment and share.

Must See: Jay-Z on Oprah’s Master Class

African American, Culture, Education, Films, Music & Hip-Hop

Jay-Z on Oprah’s Master Class

On January 1, 2011 Oprah Winfrey premiered her new television network OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network). During OWN’s premiere, Oprah featured Jay-Z on the first episode of her series, Oprah Presents Master Class. I found this episode of Oprah Presents Master Class with Jay-Z very powerful and educational. Jay-z, arguably the most successful rapper in Hip Hop’s history, shares insights and lessons learned from his experiences growing up and from his involvement in Hip Hop and the business world. Jay-Z has numerous things to teach younger and older generations. I am sure that you will find the following videos highly informative and thought provoking. I hope you get as much from these videos as I did. As always, feel free to share your thoughts by leaving a comment, posting this to your Facebook wall or tweeting it to your followers on Twitter.

Europe’s African and Islamic History

Africa, African, Culture, Education, Europe, European, Films, History

Europe’s African and Islamic History

Many African Americans grow up in the United States and other countries throughout the African Diaspora lacking much knowledge about the history of Africa and the great contributions African people have made to civilization and Western civilization especially.

It seems as if we are taught that Africans were brought to the New World from a Dark Continent that was devoid of the light of knowledge, advanced culture and civilization. We are made to believe that illiteracy and primitiveness are essentially African concepts.

The following well produced and credible documentaries serve to debunk these myths and begin to shed light on the impact that  the African and Islamic civilizations of West and North Africa had on Europe. This influence was most pronounced in Islamic Spain or Al-Andalusia, which lasted for a period of over 700 years until 1492. Al-Andalusia  as the following films document, brought advanced sciences and knowledge to Europe via Spain that changed the course of European and world history .

Learning about the influence Africa and the Islamic world had on Europe and the European Renaissance, should create a sense of pride and appreciation among people of African descent or Islamic faith, while also teaching us about the importance of tolerance and mutuality. I hope that these films will enhance your understanding of the history of Europe and highlight that the proliferation of knowledge, civilization and culture was never a one way street leading out of Europe.

These films in light of the current clamorings in Europe against the rising immigrant populations, mainly from African and Islamic nations, will hopefully serve to instruct people on how much can be accomplished when we respect diversity and bring the best of our cultures to bear for the common good of man.

Must See – Hip Hop Genius – Remixing High School Education

Culture, Education, Films, Music & Hip-Hop, Politics

Hip Hop Genius – Remixing High School Education

Sam Siedel is an educator, innovator, Hip Hop artist and author serious about leveraging the Hip Hop movement to improve the lives of young people through education. I was fortunate to find out about Hip Hop Genius via Twitter. I am encouraged to see a concept like Hip Hip Genius is finally on the verge of being widely recognized and implemented! The struggle is just beginning! Get involved and learn more about Hip Hop Genius by watching the YouTube clip below! Sam Siedel also curates the Husslington Post, the Huffington Post for the Hip Hop generation. You can follow him on Twitter@husslington or check pre-order his soon to be released book, Hip Hop Genius at! I can’t wait to get a copy! Like always, comment, tweet, share and Be The Change You Want to See!

Tattooed Teardrops: The Tragedy of The Tattoo Fad in Hip-Hop

African American, Culture, Music & Hip-Hop, Uncategorized

Tattooed Teardrops: The Tragedy of The Tattoo Fad in Hip-Hop

I have worked with young people ages 15 to 21 who are involved in the criminal justice system for the past four years. During this time, I have noticed an alarming and increasingly popular trend not only in the culture of Hip-Hop, professional sports and television but on the skin of the young people I work with, tattoos.

Despite not having any tattoos, I support the idea of individulaity and self-expression. However, my concern is that teenagers are getting these tattoos without considering the long-term implications there ink will have on the way they are perceived in our society.

Some of the tattoos I have seen on the youth I work with in the past four years have included numerous tattooed teardrops, which historically signified that you killed someone, even though the youth typically explain that their teardrops are for ‘lost loved ones.’ I have seen youth tattoo their hands with words like, ‘Certified Goon’, ‘Real Shit’, ‘Not a Goon But a Ghost’, and many other street idioms.

One of the most memorable tattoos was worn by a slender light skinned African-American who was only 16 year old. His most prominent tattoo covered his entire neck and read ‘215 – Killadelphia’ a salute to the city of Philadelphia and its reputation for brotherly slugs. The tattoo was replete with buildings in the background and two small handguns on each end of the tattoo firing bullets towards the lettering. This tattoo was definitely an interesting piece of art but the problem was that I would expect to see this type of art on a 40 year old ex-con or a inmate on MSNBC’s ‘Lockup’. Instead I am seeing this type tattoo on a young men and women who have not even matured through adolescence yet but who will undoubtedly have to bear the burden of their decision to be ‘inked’ for the rest of their lives.

It should not be a mystery to anyone that people with tattoos are discriminated against in our society and typically have a more difficult time finding employment, especially in jobs where they are required to interact with the public. Should employers discriminate against people with tattoos? I would say no, they should not but I also understand that employers have to make good business decisions and hiring someone with tattoos on their face, hands, neck and fingers could cause customers and/or coworkers to be intimidated. These young people don’t have millions of dollars and jobs in entertainment which could ameliorate any discrimination they may indeed face.

I have searched the Internet looking for interesting articles on the rise of the tattoo culture in Hip-Hop and I have not been able to find much out there. I do believe that the Tattoo culture began increasing in popularity in the Hip-Hop generation in the late 1990s with artists like Tupac, DMX, and C-Murder to name a few. I also beleive that Allen Iverson, who entered the NBA in 1996 with only a handful of tattoos but within a couple of years was tatted from head to toe. Allen Iverson started a trend that many other professional athletes would eventually adopt. Nowadays, you cannot watch a college or professional game without seeing tattoos on display including on stars like, LeBron James. In Hip-Hop you have also seen a rise in the tattoo fad with artists like Lil Wayne, the Game, Baby, Wiz Khalifa and Gucci Mane all displaying tattoos in the most visible of places, especially their faces. There art is now being featured in magazines like, Urban Ink, that targets young people of color.

Getting tattoos has also become much easier with tattooing equipment being sold on eBay and other stores online, many young people are forgoing traditional tattoo shops and apprenticeship schools to become amateur tattoo artist, working for a fraction of the cost of licensed tattoo artists . According to the youth I work with, they are regularly invited to ‘tattoo parties’ where the cost of admission is minimal and amateur, possibly unsanitary, and oftentimes shoddyy tattoos are administered. For around $30 or less they can get large and prominent tattoos that immediately bolster their street credibility and self-esteem. These types of ‘tattoo parties’ make it difficult for parents to prevent their children from getting tattoos because no parental consent forms are necessary and the tattoos are seen as something cool and normal because so many of the young people’s idols have them.

This trend has impacted the lives of countless youngsters, who without much critical thought have decided to’ ink’ their hands, arms and faces with tattoos with questionable and antisocial messages. This trend is not isolated to males either because I have also seen a rise in the occurance of young females getting visible tattoos as well. What are the long term implications for these young people? How will they be able to overcome the sterotypes inherent in the tattoos they now adorn? How will they get highly sought after jobs? Have they given up on traditional forms of employment? Do they understand the impact their tattoos will have on their lives? With tattoo removal processes being costly and often times ineffective, these questions have no easy answers and given the permanence of tattoos and their increasing popularity there will undoubtedly be long term repercussions for thousands of young people who are following this trend.

Young African-American and Latino youth have so many challenges facing them in terms of access to quality education, community violence, abuse and neglect, the lure of the drug trade, poverty, single parent households, parental abandonment, disproportionate incarceration rates, high rates of unemployment, teen pregnancy, drug addiction, etc. It seems that a significant segment of these young people have resigned to forgo entry into the professional and academic world to battle for their rights and have opted instead, to wear their dismay at our society in their bold and prominent ink. I believe they are rebelling in a self-destructive and self-limiting way, even though I empathize with them and admire of their creativity and rebelliousness. I believe this form of creativity and rebellion is short sighted and problematic. Young people must begin to think critically about the cultural trend of tattooing and ‘think before they get that ink.’

Below is a YouTube video in which hip-hop entrepreneur, Master P, speaks on on this issue. Above you will also find a gallery of images of individuals who have chosen to wear their ink in bold ways, highlighting the points mentioned in this post. What are your thoughts on this issue? What can be done to protect young people from making costly decisions that will follow them for years to come? Leave a comment or share this article.

Master P Speaks on the Issue of Tattoos in Hip-Hop