Acknowledge Your History

When i was 13 years old, my interests in life included jerking off with no abandon, listening to rap music, playing basketball/baseball and joking around with friends as much as possible. Not much has changed since then but I just wanted to spotlight a brief but indelible moment in my life that has had lasting effects. During that era , i was very much starting to ramp up my obsession with hip hop music. In the 3 year period from 11-13 , my hyper focus had really zeroed in on it as something I was all about. That said, when you’re 11,12 or 13…you’re at that age where low brow is king. So, while I loved Big Daddy Kane and Rakim, the adolescent in me was especially drawn to the dirty rappers. NWA, The Geto boys and, most of all, 2 Live crew.  I loved that shit. At an age when your hormones are absolutely out of control , what’s better for a boy going through puberty than some grown men rapping about sex in a way that my young mind couldn’t fathom. On one song , Fresh Kid Ice,  of 2 Live crew, bragged of having a 15 inch long, 8 inches thick dick. Hearing that now, i laugh cause, well, that doesn’t exist and have you seen what fresh kid ice looks like? He was a short fat guy with what was likely a very humble penis. 

Anyway, i say all that to say this…and this is a story I’ve told before in a few places but it’s crucial to where this is going. One of my friends in grade school was also a guy who was into hip hop and we would tell each other about new rappers. One day, he came into school and told me about this group The Jungle Brothers. I hadn’t heard of them and he framed them to be another super dirty rap group i would love. I left school what day and went directly to sam goody to buy the cassette. I hadn’t heard a second of them but i trusted his opinion. Also, the internet didn’t exist so it’s not like i could try it first. When i got to the record store, they had two titles, one was their debut album “Straight out the jungle”, which actually looked familiar to me. I looked at the cover and recognized the song “Jimbrowski”. It was a song about their dicks! Bingo.

The other album had just came out that week , with colorful cover art work blending reds, blacks and greens together called “done by the forces of nature”. I only had enough money for one of them so I opted to get the new one cause, for some reason, I felt they would have only gotten dirtier. So i took the album home, popped it in my tape deck and let it ride. It was different. They were talking about stuff I had never heard rappers talk about in a way that was unfamiliar. I honestly didn’t know what to think about it. But, more than anything, it was clean. So clean. there wasn’t a curse on the album. In fact, the dirtiest line in the whole album is on the song “Belly dancing dina” where they say “How hard? hard about a yard” (take that fresh kid ice, with your tiny 15 inch dick). But, outside of that? This album was downright wholesome. About peace love and , most of all, afrocentricity.  Now this wasn’t a totally new concept to me. Rakim rapped about his faith. Public enemy was fighting the power.  BDP certainly did. I even think X-clan’s first single had dropped at this point. Maybe even the Poor righteous teachers. But i had never heard it portrayed this way, nor had i really had much interest in it.  So, while i was disappointed with the lack of sex tales on this record i had bought specifically for its sex tales , I found myself playing it over and over. I was drawn to it in a way i had never felt before. I ran that tape back for weeks, learned it inside out. Sure, i still also played my 2 live crew albums but this was the first album that actually made me think outside my existence as a white kid. One song in particular was very heavy to me and that was “Acknowledge your own history”.

Mind you, i was a kid in grade school learning about history in the late 80’s/early 90’s. I would legit read from encyclopedias for all my historic info and to say that version of history was slanted would be an understatement.  To think some of my most enlightening moments in that time came from rap music is wild but it’s absolutely true.  When we are that age, we are so impressionable. I understand why 12 year olds can be easily radicalized by their parents when all they hear every day is racist, xenophobic vitriol. Same reason kids stay in church after growing up in it. We are groomed by our surroundings. But, looking back at me during that time, I could have easily gone the rout of the 2 live crew and been a womanizing psycho misogynist . But , even then, I always looked at that kinda stuff as comedy. Like rappers talking about their dicks and murdering people was no different to me than wrestling. It was entertainment. Not sure how i knew that then but I just inherently did. So becoming that person was never even a thought to me. Meanwhile, listening to the Jungle brothers, i felt a genuine connection to it but, more importantly, an empathy towards what they were talking about. I knew i was just a little white kid living in NYC. My life was good. i had things. I could say I was aware of my privilege but i certainly wasn’t aware of that as a concept back then. At that age, all you know is what’s in front of you. Still, I believed the injustice they were talking about. That song was made over 30 years ago and still resonates today. Which is crazy when you think of how badly so much hip hop ages, ESPECIALLY on a social level.  

Now, I don’t want this to come off as an “In my day…” old man rant but hearing this kinda music at that specific age was hugely influential on the person I have become. And i’m certainly not gonna turn this into a “Kids these days with their trap music…” cause i honestly don’t think it’s a fair comparison. In my day, we had no internet. Our information came from tv, movies, music, teachers, books, and parents. That’s it. So, without these kinda of songs that the Jungle Brothers made, no one would have ever opened my eyes to such topics. Not cause they were racist or trying to hide truths from but cause it just wasn’t something people really made an effort to speak on. There was no urgency then to teach these kinds of things, on top of the reality that most of us were taught the wrong things to begin with so we didn’t know what was real to begin with.These days, for every song about a gushy pussy or drug deals there are countless social awareness outlets constantly being thrust at you. While it can seem almost overwhelming at times I also realize i’m not the target audience for this. some 13 year old in the the middle of bumblefuck white america questioning whether his dad calling someone a “beaner” is okay ,however? Stuff can really make a difference. At the very least make people question things they’ve been taught to believe from a young age. As a species, we need these voices from the outside. We need to be able to compare and contrast out experiences cause, otherwise, that’s all we really know. You wonder why motherfuckers are refusing to wear masks or calling BLM a terrorist group or thinking gay people shouldn’t have the same rights as everyone…it’s often cause they can’t see past their own nose when it comes to experiences. Trust, if any of these people had a gay kid , had a son killed by police for nothing, or got covid, they might start to reevaluate their stances. At least i would hope they would. Which is why it’s so important to expose people to all walks of life as much as you can at a young age. Perspective is everything. For me, one song by a rap group I had hoped was gonna rap about fucking bitches turned out to be a door opening to help me understand social inequality. Everyone just needs that door. Man, I hope some of these fuckers find a door soon.

Critical criticism


There was a time , not so long ago, where music reviews were serious business. They could make or break an artist/album. In the 90’s, a 5 mic rating from the Source was basically anointing you king. As magazines phased out, websites like pitchfork giving you a 9.2 pretty much meant you were selling out shows for the next two years. But, in the last 5 years or so , something happened. Well, to be fair, it had been happening but it started to mold how public critics were formed and how they were viewed. What happened was, obviously, the internet. Prior to the internet, the phrase “everyone’s a critic” certainly existed but it wasn’t until we were able to see every single persons every waking thought on every known topic that that phrase became a palpable reality. The playing field was evened to the point where a person who had dedicated their life to studying music/film/art and gleaned a deep knowledge in the thing they were obsessed with was all of a sudden seen as just as important a voice as some guy on youtube. Or some kid in a comment section. Just…anybody.

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Now, as a musician, i’ve always had a weird relationship with critics. It goes both ways. No one wants to hear their hard work get shit on but everyone enjoys an old critical jerk off sesh in their favor. In reality, they both share the same negative space. Good and bad reviews , on their own, are just one persons opinion and that doesn’t amount to much. They really only matter (and by “matter” i mean effect the project in discussion) when
A)a large consensus of opinion happens
B)someone of notoriety and validity gives their educated take

One thing that always mattered to me, regarding the person reviewing my music, was that they were informed. They knew what they were talking about. Not just about me but about the music that came before me and the music that came before that because it’s all connected. When I listen to music, I am filtering it through years and years of references , personal quirks, ideas and all sorts of back of the brain type shit that I’m probably not even aware of, in order for me to come to a conclusion about how i feel about it. I’m not a “critic” but , like everyone else, I am critical. About everything. As we should be. We can’t just sit back and happily ingest everything that’s thrown at us. But if your job is a critic, you better have a wealth of knowledge and massive perspective before you can start telling people your opinion on art. Otherwise, you’re just…some fucking guy. And it’s okay to be some fucking guy. But it’s also okay to not feel compelled to film a 15 minute youtube video reviewing music you have absolutely no clue about.

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Now, why am i writing this, you may ask? Well, I recently put out a new album. I’m not a big deal so my albums don’t get reviewed that often. In the past, i have gotten good and bad reviews of all types. Regardless of the reviewers reaction, if i feel they are coming from a knowledgeable place, I respect their opinion. This time around, the majority of reviews I’ve been getting have been from people who have literally never heard of me prior to this album and I just think that’s weird. The funny thing is, for the most part, the reviews have been great. Now, new fans are kinda what keep this ship going so I would never complain about someone discovering my music and enjoying it. I’m not insane. But this is about being a public critic. I realize “not trying” is a big thing now in music and it bleeds over into the other parts that surround music. Music reviews are no different. Now, if I was a guy who was trying to make a name for himself reviewing albums, I would , at the very least, do a tiny bit of research about the artist I was reviewing. perhaps check out his older work. Look into his influences. Hell, even just reading a wikipedia page. You know, do the due diligence that is required of someone who is trying to have an opinion that holds weight. But, these days, it seems like it’s much easier to just put the album on once, let it run and be like “Hey, i have no idea who this guy is (is he a band or a dj?) but this song sounds cool…” and then post it on youtube. That isn’t being a critic. That’s just a random person listening to music and reacting to it. In it’s essence, it’s a reaction video and there are very few things more lazy and pointless than reaction videos. Reacting is something we all do but also something that 100% doesn’t need to filmed and publicly shared as some sort of valid opinion piece. Not everyone with a youtube channel is Anthony Fantano. And , regardless of what you think about him, the dude is a well read fan of music. He knows his shit. You may disagree with his opinions but his opinions are, at the very least, well informed and have a genuine perspective. Now, i realize this sounds ungrateful towards people who have reviewed my new album and , really, it’s not. i appreciate any and all support. But this is more about setting a standard. Just cause you like music, doesn’t mean you’re qualified to review it. It would be like a person who watched law & order all the time thinking they could be a lawyer.

Listen, everyone has opinions. In fact, for some, opinions are all you got. Your balls and your word, as scarface put it. But there comes a time when we must do some self evaluation and deeply consider if the thoughts and opinions we have are worth sharing. And trust me, the irony of me writing all this and saying that is not lost on me. But, hey, you’re here and you’re reading it so….GOTCHA!