On Making The Album, Fostering Love

Just wrapping up another beautiful week in the studio with The Oneness Project, recording my first full length album, “Rites Of Passage”. It’s coming along smoothly. And its opening my eyes to a lot of new things. I’m really appreciating the journey that is taking place, and all the hard work that is being put in from every musician, and the love that is being fostered all along the way.

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PC: Yasmina Mattison

For me, this isn’t an ordinary project. In writing this music, I had to look deep inside myself, and relive a lot of experiences in my own life: pain, love, and everything in between.

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PC: Yasmina Mattison

This isn’t my first time in the studio recording music, or my first time composing original work. But it is the first time where I’m seeing the vision I fully intended taking shape in ways I never dreamed of, and where I’ve had to stop, and say to myself “we are truly onto something beautiful.”

 

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PC: Yasmina Mattison

But what’s more special is when you can find a group of musicians who can help bring that vision to life. The sound reflects a level of love and selflessness from everyone involved in the project. I’m grateful to everyone who was able to get behind on such a message that we are trying to spread with this album, and I can’t wait to share it with you all.

Stay tuned.

 

The Police Camera Shows Us #BlackBoyJoy Can’t Exist, Not When Guns Are Drawn

A few days ago the Grand Rapids Police department released a body camera video from an incident involving two officers, and five black boys.

The police were looking for an armed robbery suspect, and apparently these boys fit the description. The description apparently being black male. None of these boys turned out to be who they were looking for. The police officers later visited these boys’ families, apologized, and thanked them for their compliance to the investigation. Not long after, the Police Chief for the Grand Rapids Police Department issued a public statement saying, “The officers showed empathy, they understood the ages of the children….They did their due diligence in terms of not putting themselves in harm’s way but they also showed that they appreciated the fact that these were young men.’’ In other words, if they could do it over again, they would not have changed a thing.

What these police officers, police chief, and supporters of #BlueLives fail to realize is that these were not young men–they were boys, just playing ball on the block. At what point do black boys cease being boys and become men? Black boyhood has always been erased and diminished by the state. No amount of empathy from these police officers could give that innocence back to these kids, not when guns were drawn.

I don’t doubt that there will be people who will see this video and justify it. They will say these boys did the right thing by listening to these police officers. They will say this is the job these #BlueLives men have to do, and we must comply unquestionably. There will be people who will applaud how calm these officers remained, and that they are to thank for the situation not getting out of hand, when in fact these officers were the ones who planted the seed of fear and terror on these children.

It’s a video that reminds us no matter how hard we try, #BlackBoyJoy doesn’t actually exist. We may attempt to wish it into existence, but at any moment the state can strip that bliss from us. The same joy that these boys were channeling, could have been their death. Black boy joy killed Tamir Rice and Trayvon. These boys could have been no different.

 

 

There is A Good Chance Kendrick Lamar’s Releasing Another Album, Here’s Why

Okay, so hear me out people: We need to bow down to the gods for this new K. Dot joint. Anyone who knows me knows that my Kendrick fandom knows no limits. Your boy been putting people on the king kunta ship since Section.80 days. So please don’t ever question my loyalties, because a nigga is about to go hard right now and say some shit that might be hard to hear. 

DAMN. is dope. In the future, when we look back on this album, it will most definitely go on the classic’s shelf. We can’t say Kendrick is slowing down even a little bit. This ain’t  a nonesense Drake project, where all you’re hearing is a dude who’s been running out of shit to say for 3 albums too many. Kendrick is still dropping gems, and we still need to hear him out.  But brace yourself for what I’m about to say: As dope as DAMN. is, it’s incomplete.  I know Kendrick is holding out on some serious fire, and I’m going to need him to stop fucking with my emotions like this. I haven’t slept in days. 

How do I know this? Because this isn’t a new Kendrick sound. It’s on a G.K.M.C vibe, which is lit af, and I’ll definitely bump it until my neck crack back, but Kendrick is a man who pushes musical boundaries. And if you heard T.P.A.B, then you know that whatever comes next has to be some serious fire that will make you question everything about reality, and that will also push a whole new sound and move Hip Hop forward.  However amazing we are all saying this album is, I don’t think it’s K. Dot’s final product.

I did some research. When Kendrick was discussing his latest album to New York Style magazine, he said, “We’re in a time where we exclude one major component out of this whole thing called life: God,” he went on and said, “Nobody speaks on it because it’s almost in conflict with what’s going on in the world when you talk about politics and government and the system.” So when you hear what he’s saying in this interview, and then listen to the album, it feels like he still has something to say, and a different sound to build upon from T.P.A.B

A lot folks are out here on the internet putting some intense theories together, and I ain’t mad at them for it. The main being that DAMN. is part 1 of a 2 part album. That makes sense. It came out on Good Friday, to which Christians observe the crucifiction of Jesus, and it would seem logical that he would maybe drop another one tomorrow, on Easter, Resurrection Sunday

Here is one person taking the theoretical game to another level: 

Also, to take this theory home, a bunch of folks on K. Dot’s team were on social media alluding to something bigger than what we’re seeing and hearing right now. 

Like here:

And this:

And…:

We’re in a period of artists pulling crazy surprises. And Kendrick is leading that front. We didn’t know when T.B.A.B was going to drop, or The Heart part 4, or Humble.  I can see him announcing an album, making us feel all cozy in our seats, and then slapping us with some next-level-shit. That would be the Kendrick we all know, and it would make this the greatest Easter ever–mainly because I’ve never had a reason to celebrate before. 

So I’m just going to sip my tea, sit by my phone, and keep hiting refresh on Kendrick’s Instagram. 

Double Bass Ep. 3: Beverage Snobber; Get That Pepsi Outcha Mouth

Your boy decided to embark on a new journey: podcasting. Here is Episode 3 of Double Bass with Wynton St. Claire. We talk about all the things we hate about pepsi, Dave Chappelle’s problematic Netflix Special, and Kendrick Lamar’s “Humble.”

 

On Dave Chappelle’s Return: I Ain’t For It

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Before I go in, let me make it clear: I have always loved Dave Chappelle. I mean, I made a whole post dedicated to him way back when–in the early days of this blog. I’ve seen every episode of Chappelle’s Show multple times. I watched his stand up. Correction–I memorized his stand up. I’ve studied his ‘Inside the Actors’ Studio’ interview and his Oprah interview. I watched him interview Maya Angelou before her death. For Dave’s whole career, I have been all in on “team Chappelle”. I’ve had nothing but love, respect and admiration for this brother.

…Until last month.

Since they were announced, I was anticipating his two Netflix specials, because I knew that what Dave has always said to be powerful and truth-seeking, and that now more than ever could we use his words to speak truth to power. The first special starts out smooth. As I’m watching, I’m thinking maybe the long-lost black prince has returned to claim his throne as the king of comedy.

But after about 15 minutes, it starts to get problematic real quick. I don’t know which came first–the rape jokes, the homophobia, or the transphobia. Either way, one thing is for sure: This new Chappelle, I ain’t for it.

Here are some of the jokes that made me turn in my seat from discomfort: 

On Gay Rights:

“Y’all always have some kind of gay political argument; the last one was about a petition in federal court to take the words ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ out of the law, and I said “Why would you want those words out the law?” He said “Because it discriminates against same-sex couples,” I was like “N****a please save me the semantics, take your chips out of the casino you’re about to crap out. Go outside, talk it over amongst yourselves, and whichever one of you is gayer, that’s the wife [audience laughs].””

On Caitlyn Jenner coming out as Trans:

“Whenever I see one of them Ts on the street I’m like “I don’t mind them but man I miss Bruce. [audience laughs]

“I knew before you guys knew. I heard things on the street in Hollywood, you know you used to be out, see people: “Hey what’s up Kanye, why the long face?” [audience laugh] “N***a you’ll see, I’ve got two mother in-laws now.”

On Trans Rights:

“I was shocked. Is this happening? Wait a minute, is this a time in American history when an American can make a decision for themselves, and even though other Americans don’t understand it they’ll support it, and let this person live a happy life? Is this what’s happening? If it is then good for America. [audience cheers] That’s Dave Chappelle, the American.

“Although Dave Chappelle the black American, he was a little jealous, I was like “How the fuck are transgender people beating black people in the discrimination Olympics? If the police shot half as many transgenders as they did n****s last year there’d be a fucking war in L.A. I know black dudes in Brooklyn, hard, street motherfuckers, who wear high heels just to feel safe.”

There are a lot of things to be critical over during the two specials. On my own end, it really hurts knowing how many parts that are cringe worthy, and the fact that it’s coming from someone who I’ve idolized since I was 14. But I kept watching regardless, because I was hoping maybe my hero would turn things around. And at moments I really thought he would, but it just never happened. What was  most alarming was how he centered one of the whole specials around the justification of rape. This is important. It is important because it was brought up in order for him to reconcile his inner conflict with the Bill Cosby rape allegations. He compares it to a super hero who can only activate his powers by rubbing a woman’s vagina. So in the event of a crisis, the only way he can save people, is by raping a woman. Chappelle’s words: “He rapes women. But he saves more than he rapes.” The audience laughs. 

To Chappelle, Bill Cosby more than likely raped these women, but even still, he was his idol. His conclusion–not mine–is that even if he did rape these women, he did a lot of good for the black community, and somehow that should absolve him from the trauma he instilled on these women.  With this in mind, everything else he says make sense. It’s an age-old dilemma, or not really a dilemma, but a plague within the black community. And it’s one that has always been reinforced: Black cis straight men, are really only here for other black cis straight men.

The Bill Cosby debate showed not just how  little we value women’s voices, or black women’s voices, but also their trauma. Dave also displays how much black men don’t value the trauma of LGBTQ and Trans folk, especially within black communities. He can only stand for his own oppression as a black man, and everyone else’s oppression needs to get to the side. Regardless if the same violence that has plagued black men also plagues LGBTQ folk and women, even in–especially in–the black community.

So I ain’t for it for a lot of reasons, but mainly because he has claimed before to be on a platform of social responsibility. Ten Years ago, when Dave came back from Africa, he told Oprah why he left Chappelle’s Show in an interview. He explains how he felt that he didn’t feel he was making white people question their racism, but rather enabling it. 

Chappelle’s Show was great for a lot reasons, mainly because of how he confronted the racism we see all around us. Chappelle’s Show took the reality of racism, and put a humorous spin onto it. In doing so, Chappelle was able to make the viewer stop and think, “maybe we need to stop normalizing all these things that are racist AF, and do better.”

But at some point in making the third season, Chappelle noticed a white dude laughing at his jokes behind the set. He discusses this in an Oprah interview. It was a different type of laughing, Chappelle notes, as if the racial stereotypes he was attempting to dismantle were actually being reinforced instead. As in this dude wasn’t laughing at the irony of Chappelle’s joke, he was laughing because he was probably racist AF. Chappelle felt that being on such a platform, meant understanding the social responsibility he had, and that maybe he wasn’t using his heightened visibility responsibly. That’s real. This is important, because ten years later, he has finally returned to the stage, but he appears to have abandoned any sense of “responsibility” when he chooses to discuss LGBTQ issues or rape culture. 

Dave Chappelle could have made a nuanced conversation around rape culture, homophobia, and transphobia. He could have highlighted the bigoted statements, and then brought it home by pointing out how ridiculous it is to hold these stigmas against these marginalized people. In short: he could have given their struggle the same level of respect he gives the struggle for black men, but he didn’t. He was lazy. And I ain’t for it.

I think comedy can be used as an amazing weapon. I do agree that maybe we shouldn’t hold comedians to the same standards of everyday conversations. That maybe we shouldn’t have such soft skin, as well, and be able to take a laugh. But this new Chappelle feels different, and it has dangerous implications. You watch Chappelle’s Show, and when Dave tackles race, no matter how you see it, there is nuance to it. At face value, it can make you cringe. But the more you dig, the more you see how profound the message is that he is getting to.

But in his new special, there is nothing deep about how he tackles homosexuality,  trans folk, or rape culture. It’s all surface level. What’s worse is he never actually challenges these phobias, but rather just reinforces it.  

Some people say comedy should be exempt from the rules, but I see comedy as art, and art as protest. It ain’t just laughs when people are dying for the same shit Dave is saying in these specials. We can choose to fall back into the patterns of a dangerous culture that says its okay to spit out whatever hate we want to so long as it makes people laugh in the name of comedy, and reinforce centuries old hate; or we can challenge ourselves to think differently, to do better, and be better human-beings.  

Whatever helps y’all sleep at night, I guess….

Making Meaningful Music: Inspiration Behind The Oneness Project

I don’t where to begin, but I guess I have to start somewhere. I remember 2 years ago being unsatisfied with music. I was playing with bands, writing music, touring, but it was missing something. I had been playing music for a long time. It’s always held a special place in my heart, and that’s why I was feeling empty. When you know how powerful music can be, when you’ve had the ability to touch people’s hearts in certain ways, even just once, when you fall short of that, no matter how “good” the music may sound, it just can’t feel right.

The Oneness Project is a response to that. I began writing the music a little over a year ago. These songs are dear to me, they represent spiritual growth, overcoming real hardships, and finding love in all things.  It is an understanding that your soul can’t be full, and your music will never reach the highest level, until all aspects of yourself, and your art, are ONE.

It was one year ago when we recorded the first and only video, and it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Since then, it’s only received great responses. it’s reminded me the power of music, and what purpose it should serve, and who. Now, a year later, I’m realizing I need to finish what I started, and do an entire album.

It’s a huge an undertaking, and I can’t do it alone. I’ve a started a GoFundMe Campaign, and I’m reaching out to all of you–my friends, my family, to people I’ve never met but who have continually supported me over the years–to help make this a reality, to donate, share, and spread the word to the people they know, and even the people they don’t. Here is the link. 

The goal is to raise $1,000, it seems like a lot, but making an album isn’t easy, and that goal will only help with some of the costs, the rest I will carry on my back.

Here’s what the funds will go towards:

1. Studio Time – Studio time is not cheap, especially when you want to make something that does not feel rushed.

2. Musicians – All of the musicians involved are amazingly talented, and deserve to paid their worth. From rehearsals, traveling across the region, and the actual recording, they will be dedicating a lot of time to this project. I want to make sure it is not in vain.

3. Distribution – Purchasing CDs, artwork, and shipping are all critical to getting the music you.

4. Most importantly: Through meeting this goal, I will be able to give away this music for FREE! I don’t believe in selling music, and I want this music to be accessible to everyone. You all can help with that.

Thank you to everyone who has helped, encouraged, and supported me this far. It’s meant a lot, and you all are the reason I am doing this.

Here’s to making good music!

-Mtali Shaka Banda

Black People Dying Ain’t New, It’s the Status Quo of American History

black-lives-matter-atl Last month, a man was shot six times while being restrained at a gas station in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. His name was Alton Sterling. He was black, and the cop who chose to kill him was white. Many people would argue that racial identity doesn’t matter in a case like this, but for black people, Alton Sterling wasn’t an exception, he was the rule. For anyone arguing that #AllLivesMatter, they only need to see the video of his killing to know that right now, the word “All” excludes black lives.

For the #BlackLivesMatter movement, the slaying of Alton Sterling was a tipping point. Watching a man be senselessly murdered, shot six times in the head while on the ground—that will wake people up. And what we saw in the days to follow was a growing understanding that this can’t continue.

This past year, we aren’t seeing anything new—the black experience in America has always been defined by violence— but now more people are starting to take it seriously. Black America’s pleas for life are being heard for once, but that isn’t relief, it is frustrating that it took this long. What is equally frustrating is that some people still will not be swayed.

A week later, five cops were killed in Dallas, and any potential momentum from the death of Sterling was met with a wall of resistance. Maybe some will never say #BlackLivesMatter because in their minds, black issues have never been view as urgent. To say #AllLivesMatter is to take the blue pill of American history and pretend that we got to where we are with no tension, no injustices, and no blood shed. To simplify the hurt and fear by black people is to either ignore how real violence has always been in black people’s lives, or to just not care.

white-lynch-mobsAt the height of lynching, around 1890, around six black men were killed every month by white mobs. This is not hearsay, or speculation, this is fact. Nor is this just “black history”. It is American history, as American as the Declaration of Independence and the Hamilton musical. More alarming is that in the heart of Dixieland, the mass murder of African-Americans at the hands of lynch mobs was not just public knowledge, it was public entertainment. Look at archival footage of the lynchings and see white children, white sheriffs, white politicians—all smiling. Members of the Ku Klux Klan, a white supremacist terrorist organization, were regarded as respected individuals in their communities. To many whites, they weren’t breaking the law or committing murder, they were preserving white dominance. Through the lens of white supremacy, those who participated in lynch mobs were viewed as heroes.

1890 was almost half a century after slaves were emancipated. The 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments had been passed. African-Americans were free citizens, entitled to the protection of the law, and on paper, black men could vote. Yet 40 years after emancipation, blacks living in the South still were living in a state a fear. Six lynchings a month is not just a number. It is a Trayvon Martin, a Tamir Rice, a Sandra Bland, an Eric Garner, a Michael Brown, an Alton Sterling, every month. Those are the same numbers we are seeing today. 

Lynching wasn’t what solely defined black existence in the South. There were the Jim Crow laws, which told you if you were black that your skin color, not your merit, will determine life prospects, which school you can go to, what restaurants to avoid, and the occupation you would be allowed to pursue. There was sharecropping, where even if slavery had ended, other systems of servitude could be used  to lawfully maintain a caste system based on race. Laws were enacted that placed black men in prison at disproportionately higher rates than whites, who were then leased to companies for cheap labor. Black men could vote, but poll taxes, literacy tests and other clauses would keep them from the polls. If all these tactics failed to keep black Americans as second class citizens—if blacks still aspired for something more—violence would be used without the least bit of hesitation.

This is what it meant to be black in a Jim-Crow South. Post-slavery, but not even close to post-racist. Violence may not have always been the first resort, but it was never absent as a possibility. If you didn’t step out of the way on a sidewalk for a white person to pass, if you didn’t address a white as “sir” or “ma’am” no matter the age, if you spoke your mind at the wrong time, you might as well have had a death wish.  As soon as black people’s bodies were no longer seen as valuable under slavery, they would be easily disposed of if need be. If you were black and chose not to prescribe to the racial hierarchy, you could be killed.

This barbarism was known throughout the country, including on Capitol Hill, where just as many legislators came from the North as from the South. Any idea that the terror in African-Americans’ lives was unknown to whites in the North needs to be dismissed. People in the North were well aware, and their silence was an acceptance of a way of life in the South, an acceptance that black lives did not matter, that blackness meant a deserved onslaught of oppressive forces, approved by, even if not directly administered, the state.

Only in 2005 did Congress apologize for their inaction during this dark period in American history.

Chicago-1919-preriot_webThat culture of white supremacy fueled the mass exodus of blacks from the South to northern cities. From 1910 to 1970, 6 million African-Americans came north in hopes of better prospects, but found no escape from white supremacy. Black folk leaving Jim-Crow South would arrive only to find new legal systems in place to limit their prospects. Around the same time that northern cities were seeing an increase in African-American migrants, the Federal Housing Administration  began granting home loans at better rates than ever before. The suburbs were being formed and the middle class was expanding, but blacks would have a harder time grabbing hold of these incentives. Many mortgages had racially discriminatory clauses in the contracts, denying any chance of a suburban, middle-class life to anyone who wasn’t white.

As whites moved to the suburbs, blacks remained in the cities, where they continued to be subject to racist policies like redlining. Redlining restricted and decided how funds would be allocated throughout a city and where city would invest its funds. City officials would color code a map. An area colored in green would get the most amount of resources, whereas an area with red would get little-to-none. This is where the term redlining comes from. Most areas colored in red were areas with a high demographic of Blacks.

To make bad situations worse, the construction of Highways in the 1960s would segregate and impoverish black communities even more. City officials would often decide to construct these highways in communities where people of color resided. The construction of these highways would displace the people living in these neighborhoods that would soon be torn up, but they didn’t have much options on where to go from there. The end result was more concentrated and segregated communities based around race and class than before.

This is how the northern ghettos were formed, and the rest of the tragedies and injustices that define the modern black American experience—poor schools, the crack epidemic, mass incarceration, drug trade—became natural consequences of racist policies towards black and brown people. White supremacy existed even with legislation. It is too strong to be held down by law. At the core, it is not American policing that black people want reformed, but the state to finally commit to upholding the dignity of what it never has before: black lives. Just like the days of lynching, the police has terrorized these communities in order to preserve white supremacy. The names we see behind hashtags aren’t a new trend, they are the status quo since Jim Crow south, and they define what it ultimately means to be black in America.

It is easy to condemn the anger of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. But that anger comes from how history has always treated black lives, spat at them and told them “your issues will take second seat”. When the state has perpetually given little regard to not just your humanity, but your fathers, and your father’s father, and a whole line of black men you have descended from, who look like you, and have continually lived life with hopeless outlooks, it is hard to not be jaded and to remain calm and collective at every new death we hear.

Yes, Black people are angry, but Black rage can’t exist without a history of white hate. This history has always been known to black people, only now are white people perhaps beginning to realize they never had to know this history, and that makes them uneasy. The case for #AllLivesMatter is only validated by people who either choose to minimize the history of violence in black people’s lives or completely ignore it. The slogan is for people who want to continue to be comfortable in a bubble that lets them ignore the issues pertaining to black people, but the movement won’t stop for whites’ uneasiness over addressing racism. If it wasn’t for the brave souls who stood up, made white people uncomfortable, blacks would still be in chains. You don’t get progress without a little bit of tension, of making the status quo be questioned, and the power group feel uncomfortable. This idea that the only way we can achieve true unity is through never fully acknowledging all the horrible things that have been done is nonsense. Black people are dying, have died, and will continue to die regardless if we chose to confront reality head on or wipe it under the rug. Some people can choose whether or not they want to acknowledge this history, but their choices will continue the extermination of black people.

Throughout history, what the state has never done is value black lives. We need to accept this as fact before anything else. Progress is only predicated on honesty.