Friday, June 25, 2010

Michael, Janet, Pac, and Black Music Month

Bettye LaVette...gettin' it. (Image courtesy of

Well, I've got to get my 10 cents in before Black Music Month 2010 is history. So here's a hodge podge of  what's been on my mind musically:

The Jacksons

Exactly one week from today, I'll be attending what I believe to be the first Janet Jackson concert since Michael passed away a year ago today. I had no idea the dates were so close.

This time last year, I was driving home from work, holding my breath, waiting for Michael Baisden to give the update. When the news came, so did the tears. If you missed my post, check out "The King Has Left the Building."

The decision to go see Janet this year at the Essence Music Festival was spontaneous. I never really thought about going to see her perform. I've never owned a Janet Jackson album. I've never had a JJ cut blasting in my car with the windows down. A couple of her songs were hot, "Again,""Come Back to Me," and the one she did with Busta Rhymes. But other than that, the whispery, unintelligible lyrics of her songs don't speak to me.

Yet, she's a member of the most famous musical family in the world and in her own right, has spent decades building a sexy, mysterious, brazen, and often imitated persona. It's the stuff of legend, which is reason enough for me to check out her show.

On the Relevance of Tupac

"June 1-6-7-1, the day mama pushed me out her womb, told me n***a get paid..."

Just a couple weeks ago on June 16, a friend inquired on my Facebook wall, about my lack of Happy Birthday Tupac shout out. I remembered his birthday was coming up for days, so it wasn't negligence. The shout out just wasn't something I was going to go out of my way to do, as I have done in the past.

I fell in love with hip hop in the 90s when "Dear Mama" came out. I had it on cassette tape single, back when singles used to come in little cardboard sleeves and cost 99 cents. For the next ten years or so, I repped Tupac and everybody knew it. I remember where I was when he died, and I was one of those people that connected the dots between songs and album covers to prove that maybe, just maybe, he was chillin' on an island in the Pacific. I loved that he was a poet. I loved that he was sensitive. It made him different from other rappers.

In high school, I bought a black light responsive poster made out of felt that said, "2Pac Forever." It displayed one of Pac's darkest poems, "In the Event of My Demise." That poster has been displayed everywhere I've lived since I was 18. Last weekend, I rolled it up so I could use the frame for something else.

I don't want to say it's because I've matured, because listening to Pac, or hip hop in general, does not make one immature. There's a lot of talent in the rap game. I still nod my head and sing the lyrics to "How Do You Want It," "I Get Around," and "Keep Your Head Up" when those songs bump through the speakers. And on rough days at work, I sometimes put on my headphones, block out the world, and blast "Krazy" from the Makaveli album.

For me, I've simply diversified my portfolio, altered my diet. More instruments, less ignorance. More poetry, less profanity. More beauty, less booty.

More Music Miscellany...

Concerts Attended in the Last 6 Months

Aretha Franklin
I've made it my business to see the senior set of performers whenever I can. After all, we just don't know how long these folks are gonna be around. But listen, there's nothing about Ms. Franklin that says she's got one foot in the grave. At 68 years old, girlfriend had her long weave blowing in the breeze and cracked jokes about watching Maxwell perform and playfully regretting that she wasn't wearing any panties to toss onstage during his show.

And of course, she's still got the voice.

Bettye LaVette
I first learned of Bettye LaVette at least 5 or 6 years ago while watching an HBO program filmed at Morgan Freeman's Ground Zero blues club in Mississippi. Freeman interviewed various blues musicians and each musician performed a set. I remembered how Ms. LaVette said as a teenager, she just couldn't sit down and accept a formal education. She wanted to sing. There's something about that whole blues scene--that smoky little hole in the wall club, slow draggin' patrons, the raspy notes, the emotion, the "my baby left me's," the smooth talkers--that I find intriguing. And at 64, Ms. LaVette was swinging her hips and showing us all that you can still be 60 and sexy.

CDs Bought in the Last 6 Months

Robin Thicke "Sex Therapy"
Stanley Turrentine "Look Out"
Grant Green "Green Street"

I would drive 500 miles to see...


I would drive 10 miles to see...

Erykah Badu (again)
Jay-Z (again)
Lionel Richie (again)
Wynton Marsalis

Related Articles

"For the Love of Music"

Monday, June 14, 2010

Find You Find Love: The Desire for Desires

“Boredom: the desire for desires”

-Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoy

11.  What bores you? What always bores you? And what never bores you?
(See the Find You, Find Love post for context.)

Ummm...I don't get bored.


I've actually known this for a long time and have expressed it to other people. I've got 99 problems and boredom ain't one. Doesn't mean I'm enamored by mandatory meetings, excited about traffic, or riveted by lengthy lines and long-winded speeches. When in a situation I can't leave, my brain snaps into daydream mode (which for me is a very satisfying pastime, considering there's an ongoing plenary discussion inside my head).

But as far as sitting at home, bored...with good health, a vehicle, a TV, a cell phone, a pile of books, an appetite, and a handful of unfinished crafty projects?

Does not compute.

“The cure for boredom is curiosity," Ellen Parr said. Apparently folks left curiosity behind in their youth, back when we made up games to play alone or with friends, back when we explored the backyard and the attic, searching for nothing but the thrill of discovery, back when a long bike ride was the treasure of a summer day.

In fact, when people declare their boredom, I would imagine it's like a slap in the face to God, like saying, "I'm alive and I have no idea what to do with myself." It's ungrateful. How many people are rotting in their graves who would have wished for a few more days above ground, while you're bored with life?

The chief offenders—no disrespect to the senior set--are the bored retirees. My head refuses to wrap around the idea of money in the bank, freedom to spend my time as I please, and not loving every second of it. Are we so conditioned to being told what to do for 40-plus hours a week that we can't entertain ourselves? Retirement is wasted on the retired.

"Children that spend their whole day being taxied from one organized play date to another organized baseball game, they never learn that they can have experiences unmediated by adults," said author Ayelet Waldman in an interview with Terry Gross. “I am kind of terrified about the idea of a world governed by these people who've never had to govern themselves." While Waldman is talking about modern-day childhood, her point can apply to adults who don't use their resources and imagination to satisfy their own time.

Karolvig Viggo Mortensen said it best: "There's no excuse to be bored. Sad, yes. Angry, yes. Depressed, yes. Crazy, yes. But there's no excuse for boredom, ever.”

You will also surely enjoy:
"Find You, Find Love:  Till Death Do Us Part...No Murder Involved"
"Worth the Woo"