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‘Hard to Place’: Kelis, Kaliedoscope and Other Cautionary Tales

Kelis and her brilliant debut, Kaliedoscope, signaled another bright light in the loose non-genre that the music industry’s apartheid would probably call “Black Alternative” (or what others might call “Distorted Soul”). It was bold, brash and very good. But she ran into too many of the old familiar tales that plague so many artists.

From The Guardian:

As a musician, Kelis was often called “hard to place”, which is another way of saying that record companies and radio stations did not know how to sell her. Refusing to be restricted to the R&B and hip-hop boxes into which young black artists are often shoved, Kelis’s versatile, distinctive voice meant producers as varied as David Guetta, and Dave Sitek were keen to work with her. She has made dance music, soul music and even – on my favourite of her songs, Like You, from her fourth album, 2006’s Kelis Was Here – sampled Mozart. But that variety may also have worked against her, because it means she does not have an easy, ready-fit brand. On top of that, she had a run of bewilderingly bad luck with record companies.

The story of the music industry is one of young artists getting ripped off, again and again, because they are too young to understand the contracts they have signed until it is too late. What is different in Kelis’s case, she says, is that it was her friends who ripped her off.

“I was told we were going to split the whole thing 33/33/33, which we didn’t do,” she says. Instead, she says, she was “blatantly lied to and tricked”, pointing specifically to “the Neptunes and their management and their lawyers and all that stuff”. As a result, she says she made nothing from sales of her first two albums, which were produced by the Neptunes. But she did not notice for a few years, because she was making money from touring, “and just the fact that I wasn’t poor felt like enough”, she says. She sighs: “Their argument is: ‘Well, you signed it.’ I’m like: ‘Yeah, I signed what I was told, and I was too young and too stupid to double-check it.’”


The Oral History of Prince’s Super Bowl XLI Halftime Show

“And the LORD, opened up the clouds and a mighty storm burst forth from Heaven during “Purple Rain”. And THE LORD GOD, JEHOVAH/ALLAH/YAHWEH/JAH exclaimed: “THIS is my FAVORITE ARTIST, and y’all are about to see A SHOW!!”

This is a fun behind the scenes account of the legendary event. Also fantastic footage of Prince’s Press Conference performance.

From The Ringer:

“It was the most scared I was in my life,” says executive producer Charles Coplin, then the NFL’s head of programming. “And I’m sure I wasn’t alone.”

The man scheduled to perform was nervous, too. Yes, even Prince saw the potential for disaster. “People are like, ‘He gets nervous?’” says his musical director and keyboardist, Morris Hayes. “I’m like, ‘Yeah, he’s not nervous for himself. He’s nervous for us.’ He’s trying to make sure that we’re in the right places at the right parts. What’s gonna happen when it starts raining and the floor’s slick?”


The Wilmington Coup 1898: When White Supremacists Overthrew an Elected Government

Defeated white voters in Wilmington literally staged a violent coup to overthrow the democratically elected government of their city. Across the nation, similar acts of domestic terrorism crushed democracy in the United States.

Can this country truly be called a democracy when violence and racial intimidation overshadow voter rights and other forms of political power?

From The NY Times:

A town that once boasted the largest percentage of black residents of any large Southern city found itself in the midst of a systematic purge. Successful black men were targeted for banishment from the city, while black workers left all their possessions behind as they rushed to the swamps for safety. Over 60 people died. No one seemed to care. The governor of North Carolina cowered in the face of the violent rebellion, worried about his own life. President William McKinley turned a blind eye to the bloodshed. And Waddell was selected as mayor as the white supremacists forced the duly elected officials to resign.


All US presidents are ‘captives of the military-industrial complex’: Scholar

“The continued occupation of Iraq and Syria by US military forces contravenes all international norms and standards. Both the Syrian government and patriotic forces in the Iraqi government have demanded that the US withdraw its military but to no avail. There is no legitimate reason for the continued US presence in either country.”

“It is not surprising that the illegal US occupation of both countries has elicited popular resistance. The people of every nation have the inherent right to defend their sovereignty and territorial integrity from foreign invasion. Thus, US Secretary of State Pompeo’s assertion that it is acting defensively in attacking forces friendly to the Syrian and Iraqi governments is completely without merit,” he added.

“But, it is standard American practice to cry ‘national defense’ when it engages in offensive wars of aggression. Every US president talks peace and wages war and Trump’s talk about withdrawing US forces from the Middle East is likewise so much blather,” he said.


The Pentagon’s Long Con

From The Nation:

“People condemn Trump for his incessant lying and his con games—and rightly so. But few Americans condemn the Pentagon and the rest of the national security state, even though we’ve been the victims of their long con for decades now. As it happens, from the beginning of the Cold War to late last night, they’ve remained remarkably skilled at exaggerating the threats the U.S. faces and, believe me, that represents the longest con of all. It’s kept the military-industrial complex humming along, thanks to countless trillions of taxpayer dollars, while attempts to focus a spotlight on that scam have been largely discredited or ignored.”


Julián Castro Ends 2020 Bid by Listing Names of People of Color Killed by Police

THIS is why I’m disappointed that Castro is dropping out of the race.


“I’ve determined that it simply isn’t our time,” Castro said in a campaign video. “Today, it’s with a heavy heart and profound gratitude that I will suspend my campaign for president.”

Castro did not say what he planned to do next but vowed that he was “not done fighting.”

“I’ll keep working towards a nation where everyone counts, a nation where everyone can get a good job, good health care and a decent place to live,” he said.

The video touted Castro “speaking up for the most vulnerable folks in this country” on the campaign trail.

“We’ve been fighting for those who are often left out, cast aside, marginalized,” he said in the video.

It also included a montage of Castro listing names of people of color who were killed by police or died in police custody, as he frequently did at debates and speeches.

Castro invoked Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Aiyana Jones, Eric Garner, Laquan McDonald, Sandra Bland, Pamela Turner, Stephon Clark and Antonio Arce.

“They deserve justice, too,” he said. “No matter who you are, no matter what you look like, no matter the color of your skin, you ought to be treated the same under our justice system. I’m the only candidate that’s put forward a plan on police reform.”


Petrodollar Warfare: The Common Thread Linking Venezuela and Iran

Iran has been calling the United States “The Great Satan” for a very long time. We have a short memory in the US, but the Iranians remember that we ENGINEERED the coup that removed the popular democratically elected prime minister Mohammed Mossadegh and installed the brutal dictatorship of the Shah.

They remember that we backed Iraq in the Iran/Iraq War, and we have been antagonistic since at least 1979 when the revolution captured our embassy.

The Iranian people, are actually pretty westernized. They are probably more sympathetic to us than they are to our government. But you don’t make friends by assassinating people.

War with Iran didn’t just happen overnight.

“The U.S. is able to dictate these econo-warfare policies through its disproportionate control of the world financial system. Iran has been sounding warnings about this strategy for some time and has been a vocal advocate of creating a new global financial system that will bypass U.S. control of the existing global financial system.

“Iran, though, is not the only country interested in such an arrangement. Russia, China, and Venezuela have all found themselves facing arbitrary economic penalties levied by the U.S. and have also taken steps to wean the world off the dollar and use alternative currencies to conduct business, a global trend that could seriously impact U.S. dominance over the world economy. But in order to understand where “King Dollar” is going, we have to understand where it came from.”


Always Business… Never Personal

Jay Z is, first and foremost, a capitalist. He’s a business, man.

And as such, his social justice maneuvers are cloaked with the cape of Black capitalism.

Kaep was always a lone man standing on an island. The boycotts surrounding his unemployment only had teeth as long as no one crossed the picket line. Jay just crossed the picket line and stranded Kaep out on that island alone.

I picture Jay and Kaep playing out the scene from New Jack City…

Jay as Nino Brown: “It’s always business. Never personal.”

Kaep as G Money: “We all we got, man. Am I my brother’s keeper? AM I MY BROTHER’S KEEPER?”

Jay/Nino: “Yes. I. Am.” [Squeezes trigger]

© Nadir Omowale