That NEW Adage

A pressure-relief valve about God, and just about everything else.

BB King’s gig

This was an, overall, pretty decent night — mix notwithstanding… I’m on alto and tenor saxes. And some vocals.

Sorry about the fuzzy video quality. Wasn’t ME!

Check out Steve Bethany on rhythm guitar!!! Just about the best at it!

Come watch my SyncLive.com show at 8:30 PM on 9/3/2009

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September 6, 2009 Posted by | Entertainment, Live Music, Music, Saxophone | Leave a comment

Contra Diction

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, who, almost arrogantly,  pronounces each and every letter of every syllable of every word she speaks, grates on my nerves sometimes.

We know you’re smart. We know you’re Ivy League educated. But do you have to go out of your way to elocute even the soft sounds at the ends of words? “…spiked(a) the punnncchh att my best(a) friend(a)s graduation(a) parttee.”  She sounds as if she is spitting out fish bones when she says words like, “terrorrisstss.” Gotta get that darn, tricky “ess”  in at the end! Wouldn’t want to appear ordinary.

If she just spoke like the rest of moderately educated humanity, she could save about fifteen seconds of dialogue per every minute of talking. She could winnow her show down to a half hour!

She sounds like a COGIC preacher.

It’s like listening to Niles Crane recite Shakespeare while gargling marbles. I feel like the next thing she is going to say to me is, “turn(a) lefffft in two pointt threee my-uls.”

Maybe it’s just me… I’ve been ill-tempered lately.

January 8, 2009 Posted by | Culture, Current Events, Entertainment, Humor, Language, MSNBC, Pet Peeves, Political Humor, Politics, Rachel Maddow, Rant, Television, TV, Words | 2 Comments

Um a Souuuuul Mane! (shameless plug time)

Soul Men,”  starring Samuel L. Jackson, the late Bernie Mac, and the late Isaac Hayes, opens tomorrow. Go see it! I played on either the score, the soundtrack, or both. Help me out so that my checks will be a little larger! Thanx!

Samuel L. Jackson and Bernie Mac star in The Weinstein Company's Soul Men

November 6, 2008 Posted by | Bernie Mac, Entertainment, Isaac Hayes, Movies, Music, Music Business, Samuel L. Jackson, Saxophone, Soul Men | 2 Comments

I Don’t Get It.

There are things, entities, and people whose popularity I just don’t understand. As there are too many things vying for the attention God deserves, I suggest that we be more discriminating with our adoration.

Here are a few. I will add more as they come to mind, you may do so as well. I hope I don’t burn any more bridges! I already can’t go back to where I was when I started this whole venture. This post is a little bit on the carnal side.

It’s all in fun, y’all, just jokes…

“Boomerang” era Robin Givens. Don’t get it. Never did. Her affected elocution sounds as though she has a mouth full of greazy marbles, and she looks like she’s pressed up against a force field. Totally two-dimensional face… Mike Tyson was too good for her!

T. Pain. I get the PAIN part. In my eyes and ears. “Buy ME a DRANK” and put some strychnine in it!

The fineness of Paris Hilton. Where? WHERE?

Keith Sweat. Come ON!

While I’m there, Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, the “genius” of Alicia Keys, Lenny Kravitz,  and — yes — Jimi Hendrix.

M.A.S.H. Boringest show ever!!

Madonna. My goodness! Never was sexy, never could sing. Just nasty. I guess nasty is provocative. The emperor is nekkid, y’all.

Janet Jackson.I know I’m alone here. I was able to be mad at her for pulling her bress out on tv ’cause she never appealed to me. Un-fine.

Lil Wayne. This is why we need to re-program our daughters as to what “cute” is! Sets black folk waaay back. We need three Obamas to make up for one Lil Wayne!

  Twins. One is a parasite. The other one sucks your blood.

Steve Harvey. Pryor you ain’t.

David Caruso. (CSI Miami)I guess the definition of “sexy” is being the first man to show your butt on tv, no matter how you look. Arrogance on HGH!

Star Trek. Ughhhhhh! I like C-Span better!

Beer. Who tasted this first and said, “YEAH!! THAT’S the taste I was looking for!”?

Watching poker on television. Read a book. Or play poker!

Tyler Perry. I’m not mad at his effort, just the end result.

Woody Allen movies. Ambien without the fear of overdose.

Other movies; “Citizen Kane,” “The English Patient,” “My Left Foot,” and ANYthing Meryl Streep did.

Allen Iverson. As much heart as missed shots.

And Emmitt Smith (very good, but not the GREATEST), Bill Parcells, and Jim Rome (bullies).

Pecans. HATE ’em! Taste like bark.

Runway Fashion. No one ever wears the cardboard evening gown with the birdcage hat in public.

Horror movies. They never end. I like my monsters DEAD!

Fraternities. I know I’m stepping on toes here. “Hey, let me beat the blood out of you, and humiliate you for weeks, and I’ll let you call me ‘brother’, and then I’ll wreck your car, and borrow money from you that I’ll never pay back!” Stupid.

High Fives. Stopped doing it when everybody else started doing it, along with, saying, “bling,” “shout out,” “chill,” and “da bomb.” Do YOU.

Sagging pants with the drawz showing. Don’t y’all know that is prison chic? The ones who do it are the “woman” in prison.

Hip Hop award shows. Personally, I’m em-burrassed when I run across it. I’m sure God hides His face when they give Him props for Best Song for“Three Hoes an’ a Bottle o’ Criss.”

Spoken word. Pretentious for the most part.

Monique. Wake up! She ain’t deep! Even if she DOES frown seriously with every word! Can’t y’all read Ghetto?

Dr. Pepper. Is this not what anti-freeze tastes like?

Diet anything. Just drink water. I can actually HEAR the aftertaste! That can’t be good.

Bell Peppers. Who said this was FOOD?

ANGELINA JOLIE!!! The Piece of Resistance indeed! Where? Where the sexy at? Come on, folks, speak up. I know I ain’t the only one! If a set of lips made you fine, goldfish would be in Playboy.

This is just the start. I got a lot of them. I’m sure you do, too. I can’t talk Bible all the time…

November 4, 2008 Posted by | Culture, Entertainment, Humor, Hype, Overrated, Pet Peeves, Pop Culture, Rant, Stuff I Hate, Style Over Substance | 11 Comments

Just a Snippet…

I have said that I play the saxophone for, what has been lately, somewhat of a living. Here is a clip from a gig I did with a band in which I really enjoy playing. It is the closest thing to the kind of music I want to play that I have been able to do in a long time — I hope you followed that. This is the band playing, “Sister Moon,” as done by Herbie Hancock and Sting.

Bear with me! The clip takes a few seconds to load, and the picture is small. I didn’t want to buy the Pro version of Quicktime just for this one thing. I hope you like it.

http://www.cmdstudio.com/kwestweb.mov

September 23, 2008 Posted by | Entertainment, Jazz, Life, Live Music, Music, On the Job, Performance, Saxophone, Sister Moon, Video Clips, Work | 2 Comments

Heart of Stone

While I’m on the subject of music, I thought I’d fill you in on that story I said I’d tell you a while back.

It is a sordid tale of trust, loyalty, disloyalty, apathy and disillusionment.

Shortly after 9/11, when the nation was in turmoil, I got a house-gig working with what would become the best band I’ve ever played in. I got the job like this: My bandleader at the time went on an extended crack binge, and seeing the “smoke signals,” I hurriedly got some business cards and went downtown to make my availability known! A week or so later, the Lord blessed me with a job at BB Kings club downtown. We would be the backing band for the headliners, Larry Springfield (of “Star Search” fame), Ruby Wilson (OMG! Wait’ll I get the chitlins to tell you about HER!), and the late, great, Little Jimmy King (gone too soon at 33!).

While I looked at it as just another gig, it turns out that there were guys in this group who had world class abilities. We consisted of the standard rhythm section plus trumpet and me on tenor sax.

The guitar player, Steve, had played with Howard Hewitt, Glenn Jones, Jeffery Osborn, Jill Scott, and saxophonist, Mike Phillips. The bass player, Anthony, was about 19 and had the chops of a guitar player. The drummer, Marles, was a beast. With much drama in his life! The trumpet player we ended up gettng, Marc, is the best trumpet player I have worked with, by far. And the bandleader, Jonathan, was in demand as a producer and has a voice that channels Donny Hathaway!

It is Jonathan, and headliner, Larry, through whom most of our opportunities for real industry work came. The management group for singer, Brian McKnight, on the advice of Larry, came to check us out in ’02 to see if we would be the group to hire to back their client, model and singer (in that order), Cherokee. We got the job. I started to think that I was really on my way after that!

We did one gig, in D.C., before her deal fell through. She was one of pretty much a horde of cute little pop singers with average — at best — voices. It was a crap shoot with loaded dice.

Jonathan was in negotiations to do a production deal with a well-known singer whom I hesitate to name not out of fear, but because I don’t want to cause Jonathan any problems since he — amazingly — still works with her at times. Besides, Kathy thought it wise that I not, as badly as I want to do it. Trust me, though, she is someone you have heard if you listen to any r&b music nowadays. It is she about whom I write. I’ll call her Patty.

Jonathan ended up signing with her. Our deal with the club was that we could do outside work of any kind as long as we either told the club in advance, or hired a substitute to play our position. That turned out to be not so true. BB’s is in Memphis, and Memphis is in the South. This factored in to a lot of the problems we had there.

So, JoNa, as we called him, would sub out quite a lot because in addition to being Patty’s producing partner (she was working on her second record), he was also hired to head up her live band, which was peopled with young guys who JoNa said were unpolished and unhip. He had been trying to get Patty to hire the band he worked with in Memphis, and she was apparently, reluctantly, warming to the idea seeing how bad JoNa was.

In the summer of ’03, I got a call from Jonathan: ” You ready?” he asked.

“Ready for what?”

“Patty got booked to do this cruise, and she just fired her band! We in!”

My heart was beating like those cops on Rodney King! This was IT! “Yeah, I’m ready!” all teeth.

So we did the cruise with one rehearsal with Patty, (still another story) and did so well that Patty assured us (I got it on tape) that she would do right by us. Meaning that since we did the two shows for about $500 — a pittance on that level — she would do better in the future and that we would be her band. Here it was! I was in the industry! Just like I pictured it! Skyscrapers, everythang!* Now, I would get my chance to network with people who would hear me and hire me for bigger and better stuff. I would be able to make real money and not have to remain at the club where I had to argue just to get a bill** a night while they cleared 80 grand a week! Be aware that when you go to these tourist spots that the bands — which drive the industry — get chicken change. BB’s would be Apple-B’s without live entertainment. Someone needs to show that to management!

In July of ’03, we got word that we were going to Detroit to headline a show at Ford Field, where the Lions play. Big show! We started rehearsing in Memphis five or six days a week. It was grueling and none of us liked it. We were being pushed hard. On top of that, Marc and I had to create horn parts for all of Patty’s music, which had none. We did this before, too, and since she had just released a new album (you can still say “album.” That is the forum, like a photo album. The CD is just the format. I’ve wanted to say that for a long time!), so we had to do it again for a whole record. Patty reserved the right to cut whatever we did, and this was a source of stress for Marc and me for obvious reasons. She never showed up for any of the whole month of rehearsals!

JoNa informed management that we would be gone Thursday, the 28th, and Friday, the 29th, and that we would be back to play on Saturday. We were cleared. 

I need to say this right here… Before we got the BB’s gig, the band that had the job — along with their frontman, blues singer, Preston Shannon — left for a higher paying job at the now defunct, Isaac Hayes’ Club one street over. They were rivals. Another good story there. They had by now been let go and were sniffing around back at our club for their job back. We had established a rocky relationship because we basically would not go for the “okey-doke.” Jonathan, a militant with a gift (and a love) for arguing, would let nothing get by. They HATED him! But we were so good! 

We had been fired and re-hired by now, and the new management (hint, hint) had cooled to us significantly. We had been working Monday through Saturday, but Preston got them to give him Monday nights. We were not happy about it, but we were all good friends. We were upset at the bosses, not the labor. So now down to five nights a week, we were all wondering when the next shoe would fall. There were new rumors every hour. They still operate that way to this day!

So, “Yeah,” JB, the club G.M., said, “We’ll get Preston to sub for you guys. No problem.” I heard him myself. 

Here it is.

We depart for Detroit and this gig, which by the way, pays about four hundred dollars less than it should. Patty has not done one rehearsal with us.

When we did the cruise, she barely spoke to any of us, as charming and Southern as we all were. We thought presumptuously that we would have her eating out of our collective hand. NOT! It was on that cruise that we learned pretty much all we needed to know about Patty.

The morning after the show, at about 8 AM, I got a call from Patty’s manager saying that they were waiting on us down on the lower deck to sign autographs. We had been up all night celebrating a great show, and I was in no mood to be getting up after only three or four hours of sleep. I got up.

When we all got downstairs, Patty’s manager gathered us all together and said frantically, “Thank y’all for coming down! Patty is having respiratory problems and she asked me to have you all sign autographs for her. There is a room full of people waiting for y’all!”

Now, right here, something started ringing in the back of my head.

When the manager, “Pinky,” walked hurriedly into the room, we all hung back and I said, “Man, wassup it that? Don’t nobody want our autographs! They came to see Patty! We ain’t got no T-shirts wit our faces on ’em! They don’t know us from a can of paint!” I really didn’t want to go in that room and look like a fool.

“I do hope Patty is gonna be all right, though,” I naively said.

Her background singer, Stephanie, gave me the Sister Mouth and shot, “Boy!! Ain’t nothin’ wrong wit that heffa!She just mad at TMC!”

Oh.

“TMC” (not his real name) was her boyfriend at the time. He went everywhere she did, and lived his living by meeting certain of her needs. He was an ex-con who was a “rapper,” and they were supposed to be in lovvvve. Gonna get married. They fought like two cats though. A cougar and a tomcat. She has operated by the same formula for years. Still does.

So, they got into it about one trivial thing or another, and it meant that the band had to get up before the dolphins and endure the angrily muttered discontent of Patty’s fans.

This was a precursor. I hope you’re still with me. It gets better. Or worse, depending…

In Detroit, we went from the airport directly to the venue for a short sound check. Rather than just check everything out and go check in to the hotel, we launched into a full fledged rehearsal! No one was happy! What she should have done for a month in Memphis, which was her agreement, she tried to do for three hours in the stadium. The sound guys were livid. Curt and short. No one blamed them.

One thing: When Patty’s people bought the tickets for the band, they took it upon themselves — knowing full well that we had a regular gig to get back to — to book our return tickets for Sunday! Meaning that we could get fired from BB’s for not showing up for work Saturday night, on thin ice as we were. When JoNa found this out, he called Patty’s management, and through a lot of back-and-forth, it wound up that the only solution was that each returning band member would have to pay $100 of his own cash to have the tickets changed. Apparently the only returning flights for such short notice were a lot higher, and an hour NORTH of Detroit in Flint!

So, this big star with all this money and clout, who promised to “do right by us,” couldn’t foot the bill for a huge mistake made by her own people? She would pass it down to guys who had to scrap a living $100 at a time.

After our sound check/rehearsal, we checked in to the hotel (where all the people coming to the gig were staying. Remember that!), and went to dinner at a fancy restaurant where I met mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick.

We needed a place to rehearse the next day, and they ended up finding a place way ‘cross town in the hood. We had to take about three cabs to get there. We spent our own money, which was to be reimbursed. “Was this how it was?” I asked myself. “On this level?” Shoot! I did a chitlin-circuit blues festival back in ’96 in Alaska with Little Jimmy King that paid twice as much ( I had to strong-arm him for my cash! He tried to pull a fast one on me. I got fired when I got back home…), and we were chauffeured everywhere! We didn’t have to hail no doggone cabs!

Patty wasn’t with us, though. She took her three background singers shopping with her while the band kicked off the rehearsal! We couldn’t believe it! The singerswere the ones who needed the dadgum practice! Besides, Marc and I needed to know what she thought of the lines we had written, and we needed the time to make the changes and commit them to memory. But she was busy shopping!

They rolled up, with TMC, about four hours later — now, this is the day of the gig — falling out of the car with bags of clothes crackling like Christmas morning.

The backing singers line up on the stage with their music stands to hold the lyrics (!) and we get going. Patty is looking mean and surly sitting up against a wall in the front of the room. She proceeds to change everything — the horn lines (she cut most of them), the vocal arrangements, the feel — everything.

The tension was thick like rush hour in Beijing. Everyone was on edge and snapping at each other. This was definitely not the way I envisioned the “Music Business.” No fun anywhere to be found.

After a couple of hours, we took a break. Marc, formerly of Preston’s band, either called or got a call from Tom, Preston’s sax player. They were engaged in casual conversation until it turned to the subject of BB’s.

It went something like this: “So, how’s it going at the club?” Marc asked.

“It’s cool, you know. Same ol’ stuff. You know how they are. I’m getting ready to head down there now. After tonight, one more night of it, then you guys can have it back!” Tom complained.

“Wait! Whaddaya mean, ‘one more night’?” Marc asked.

“Yeah. You know… Thursday, Friday, Saturday.”

“Naaaw. You guys aren’t doin’ tomorrow! WE are!” Marc exclaimed.

“All I’m sayin’ is what JB told us. You guys are out the rest of the week.” Calm as a fish pond.

“I’ll call ya back!” Marc hung up.

When he told us what had just happened, a sense of dread came over all the guys in the band.

Jonathan got on the phone immediately with JB. All of us were there, Patty too, sitting over there in the corner looking totally disinterested.

“JB! I specifically told you we would be out Thursday, and Friday, and that we would be BACK to play SATURDAY!!!”  “What?!?” ” No, I specifically TOLD YOU SATURDAY!” “WHAT?!?” “NAW! I don’t care!”  “WELL YOU GOT TA TELL PRESTON HIS BAND AIN’T WORKIN’!”  “WHAT KINDA BIZNESS Y’ALL RUNNIN’ DOWN THERE? IT’S ALWAYS SOMETHING! WE WORK EXTRA, AND THE MONEY AIN’T ON THE CHECKS, WE COME DOWN THERE, AND Y’ALL TELL US WE OFF… Y’ALL TREAT US LIKE SOME SLAVES!!”  “WE CHANGED OUR FLIGHT PLANS SPECIFICALLY SO WE COULD GET BACK TO PLAY SATURDAY!”  “WHAT?!?”  “I DON’T CARE!” “YOU DO WHAT YOU GOTTA DO, AND I’LL DO WHAT I GOTTA DO” ” WHAT?”  “I’LL CALL TOMMY (the club owner)  MY SELF!”

By now, I got heart meat all in the back of my mouth hearing this…

“Hello? Tommy? This is Jonathan.  I just got off the phone with JB. Yeah. He double-booked the club Saturday.”  “Well, yeah, we’re in Detroit now, but I specifically told him we would be there tomorrow! He fired us.”

(WHAT?!?!?!)

“Okay. If that’s the way you want it. We’ll never work there again!”

(WHAT?!? “WE?!?”)

He hung up. The room was like a wake. All we needed was the body.

“JB fired us. (US?!?) Tommy said JB was in charge. It was his call.” Jonathan revealed.

There it was. With Patty and everybody listening, this gig had gotten us fired. The club had us (or Jonathan, so they thought) where they wanted us. We wondered what role the other band had had in all of this. Jonathan — who was going to sub out at BB’s Saturday, by the way — had gone to bat for us in a big way, and we all were canned.

Immediately I went into rationalization mode: We were in the industry now. Who needs BB’s? Pee on ’em. (I was mad, forgive me.) We were the famous Miss Patty’s band now! BB’s was peanuts! They’d be watching us on tee vee!

With great effort, we resumed rehearsal under this pall. We returned to the hotel with only a couple of hours till showtime.

While we were getting dressed, my roommate, Steve (Nope. She wouldn’t even spring for individual rooms! I bet David Sanborn never had to share a room with Steve Gadd!) got a call. After he hung up the phone…

“We ain’t playin’, mane.” He said with a chuckle and a tone of “I told you.”

“What!”

“The gig is off, dude. We ain’t playin.” He was laughing now. First fired, now this. “Patty called the show off. We done.”

Okay, give me a little leeway here. One of the three background singers, Michelle, is amply endowed in the posterior region. She is huge in the backside. She is enormous in the trunkular area. Biggest tailfeather I’ve ever seen shake! And the funny thing is, it is exactly properly proportioned! I mean, if you boiled her down evenly, by the time she got down to a size two or four, she would be Halle Berry, or some perfectly-shaped starlet. But there would be a LOT of grease on the floor!

But she is about a 70” in the hips. No lie. The thing is… a lot of Brothers like that kind of thing. You would be surprised. Most Black guys are “butt men.” But Michelle got stuck in the Butt Line in front of Angelina Jolie and Miss Jane Hathaway and the last fifty years of Miss Americas.

Here’s what happened: In what appears to have been an attempt to start some trouble, one of the other singers told Patty, “TMC shole is lookin’ at Michelle booty!” You couldn’t NOT see it! You could see it from the front if you were facing the other way with your eyes closed!

(Don’t worry. Kathy knows all of this, and is not upset.)

That was all that was needed.

An argument apparently ensued between Patty and TMC (he was innocent it turns out.), and Patty’s famous “respiratory problems” showed up.

“Naw,” I told myself. “This woman ain’t gonna cancel a show ’cause she got into it with her boyfriend! She ain’t gonna just sit in her room while all these thousands of people who came from all over the country on planes and buses go to the stadium and wait on her to show up! She ain’t that selfish.”

So we got dressed and went down to the lobby to wait to be driven to the venue. As we were waiting with our instruments, people began streaming out of the hotel on their way to the place. “I know y’all gonna kill it!” they all said as they passed and saw our faces. And recognized us for later.

And we sat. And sat. And Patty never showed.

About thirty minutes after we were supposed to be playing, and earning the money for our month of hard work, and justifying getting fired, Pinky came down, looking all troubled, “Patty is having trouble breathing. She won’t be able to perform.” Just like that.

We ambled back to our rooms and pondered our fates. I had just gotten married, and now I was out of one job, and unsure about another. And how were we going to make it out of this hotel with everyone seeing our faces and knowing we stood them up?!? I could only pray that God would sustain me like He had done for the fifteen years before I had even met “Patty”.

Guess what? About an hour later, some of us were at the front desk in our civvies trying to decide where to eat when Pinky popped up, “Good! Here you are! Go get dressed! They want you to perform anyway! Hurry up! Stephanie is gonna do Patty’s set!”

So, with much fear and reluctance, we went to the stadium without Patty, who sulked in her room and let us take this beating for her, and proceeded to lay he biggest, stinkinest egg ever laid in the history of Show Bidness.

Those people, out of at least HUNDREDS, if not thousands of dollars, formally dressed, saw us up there sans Patty and hit the exits like it was the second quarter at a Lions’ game! Within twenty minutes we were playing for the wait staff as they cleared the tables of dishes that had not been used! If they had dropped US on Hiroshima, we probably would have blown up all of Asia!

The next day, on the way back home to nothing, Patty, with the Stones of a safe cracker, peeked onto the bus and said, “Sorry. These things happen.” And left.

“These things happen?” I said. “Yeah. They happen when you MAKE ’em happen!”

Patty sat there and watched us lose our jobs at home, and AFTER that, cancelled a show she could have done, and let us take the heat for it. Because she was mad at her boyfriend.You can understand why I want to say her name. I have seen her make a spectacle of herself on tee vee and recognized her abhorrent behavior.

That was the Injury. The Insult is that we didn’t get paid!!! Some guys eventually got half. Jonathan wound up — I know — giving me mine out of his pocket.

That was the last time Marc and I “played” with Patty.

That is another story.

 

 

 

 

 

* “Living for the City” Stevie Wonder

** $100

August 24, 2008 Posted by | Celebrities, Divas, Embarrassing Situations, Entertainment, Humor, Music, Music Business, Show Business, Singers, Stories, Work | , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

A Few Words About the WORD…

Last week, on that feminist staple, “The View,” a big dust-up broke out about the use of THE “N” WORD. The thick-tongued titan of civil rights, Jesse Jackson was caught saying it in an off-air moment. The black cast members of the show were trying to explain to the white ones why there is an acceptable double standard in the usage of that fully loaded word.

Off the subject, are we still looking to Jesse for guidance? For what to do or NOT to do? That’s like me trying to get my butter from the milkman. I was through with him when he went on Bill Maher’s show and talked about “the mythology” of the Genesis account of creation!

I have a few hairs I have to wax off my chest…

Who is really surprised that some — many — most — black folk use it in their speech? Is it really that , “OMG! I can’t believe the Right Reverend would stoop to say such a vile thing!”? Or is it that, “If HE says it, why does the world stop when someone white says it?”

I posit that it is the latter. By a landslide.

The truth — that only God (and I) know — is that many white folk use the word, too. At the very  least all those white kids who buy up all the hip-hop can’t help but use it! More on that later. White folk, represented here by Elizabeth Hasselbeck and Barbara Walters, imply, “If YOU use it, why can’t I?”

I will tell you why, and in the foregone words of my parents, “Don’ asss me no moe!” I’m tired of this!:

The reason you can’t say that word is the same reason you can’t come into MY house and call My kid ugly. (My kids ain’t ugly!) The reason is that there are certain things that can be said in certain environments by certain people at certain times that are unacceptable for others to say. That’s the way it is, and you know it! There are certain things I would say to my own that YOU had better not say. They are the benefits of having a shared experience. People who have been through the same stuff have a fraternal bond that anyone outside that group cannot share. Football players, holocaust survivors, Italians… That is life.

Listen, people are crude. All of us. That’s why we need a Jesus. We do and say rough things. Two old friends greeting each other after a long separation; “Hey! Howya doin, ya tub a’ lard?!? Who’s ya’ barber? God?” Guys talk to each other like that when they are close and are sure of the affection of the other guy. That is key!

Women regularly use the infamous “B” word, a word almost as loaded as that other one. I used to work for the blues singer, Denise LaSalle. She used the word in reference to her self on her album cover. But had I called her that (I love her, but she used to make me really angry when we would stop for her to eat an hour away from home on a twelve hour trip!), I’d have been fired like a Saturday Night Special! Like a cop’s gun in the ghetto. Too rough? I haven’t been what she is, and I haven’t suffered what she has. And I don’t sit and freekin’ long for the right to call her a female dog!

Women can call each other, “girl,” “honey,” and “sweetie” without issue. A man can’t. I’m cool with that.

There are disparaging terms for every racial group. Who sat and thought up these words? The popular ones? Ask yourself that one… And every racial group has within it people who regularly employ those terms in reference to each other. To NO offense! I have heard it, and so have you. I don’t cry about why I can’t use them.

It is funny that the most innocuous racial terms are the ones used in reference to white folk. Shoot, you can still hear them clear as day on Nick at Nite, for goodness sake! “The Jeffersons,” “All in the Family”… Incidentally, the word, “cracker” is NOT a reference to white folks’ skin color. It refers to the fact that in slavery, the white man was the “whip cracker.” Dig that! That makes it a whole ‘nother kind of slur.

When I hear Barbara Walters ask why she can’t say the word, I ask myself why she would want to.

This is what black people have to do; When we meet white people, we have to figure out whether they are genuine or not. When we get overlooked in a store, the added element of, “I wonder if it is ’cause I’m black, or are they just absent-minded” always factors in. We have to add an extra step to most of our inter-racial interminglings. That’s the way it is. And when white folk whine about why “the blacks get to say it and we can’t,” it makes our Spidey Sense tingle. It makes us wonder “You mean, ‘the blacks get to say it, and we can’t in public’, right?”

And when I hear Mrs. Hasselbeck suggest that no one be allowed to use it, I say that if you are saying that on the basis that all crude speech is wrong on a Christian level, I agree. But if you are saying that I cannot, by your edict, refer to myself or a member of my “family” in a certain way, you are out of your yard and need to hit the brakes. Black folk didn’t invent the word anyway. I submit that it is not wise to go around trying to tell those at the bottom of the pile what they can and cannot say.

To be honest, that word is a rope that pulls every bit of centuries of shed blood, broken families, hacked-off limbs, raped women, forced labor, disconnected heritage, “Christian” hypocrisy, castrated bucks, burned and lynched bodies, subjugation, segregation, disenfranchisement, misrepresentation, beating, terrorism, third class education, and intimidation with it, and rather than deal with it, many would simply wish it away than hear it.

White people, in spite of the rantings of The Angry White Man, have all power — Obama notwithstanding. And just as television makes the daddy the buffoon and comedians make endless jokes about politcians, the person on top has — or should have — thicker skin due to having all the control and all the privilege. Black folk have pig knuckles and chitlins ’cause that was all that was left. All the little people have is a joke or two. Do you have to say the word, too?

It is the same reason that it is more acceptable to mock a white person’s vocal inflection than a black, asian, or Mexican’s way of speaking. They have more likely had the benefit of a high-caliber education. It is hard to slur someone who has all the stuff!

And all that stuff about “we took the pain out of the word” is a bunch of Bug Snot! (Can we still say bug snot? ) That word still has pain. Black folk never had a meeting and said, “How can we take the pain out of that word? I know! Let’s take it from white folks and use it among ourselves all the time and on records and in various media, and soon it won’t hurt no more and white folks will have no power!” The fact is that people often say rough things. That is why folks aways want to learn the curse words when visiting a foreign-language-speaking country. The “N” word is no different. There was no conscious effort to take the sting from the word.

The entertainers and rappers I her parroting this nonsense make me as angry as the folk who want to say it do! It is a cop- out. A one-legged rationalization! (No offense to all the one-legged folk out there…) You say it because it is fun to cuss, and that is all. There is no artistic, scientific reason behind it. Quit trying to be DEEP! (Richard Pryor was a genius, I think. He took authentic black life, language and all, and made it political satire)

I am ashamed when I hear the word used around white folk. And with the devolution of hip-hop, we have critically injured ourselves artistically and are probably being laughed at by many of those who hear it. I am a musician, and I think that hip-hop is very close to being the black face, Jim Crow minstrelry of the new millennium! Being a musician, I can say this without repercussion. I’m in the group…

A lot of times when black folk see other black folk engaging in embarrassing behavior (house shoes and rollers in the grocery store) that word is uttered in shame. “They makin’ it hard on the rest of us!”

A lot of the white folk who use it in secret will say that they only use it in reference to those who make trouble, King, Malcolm, Sharpton, Jackson, Ali, etc. In other words, those who holler when they get hit! In still other words, black folk they see!

Interesting dichotomy.

My kids will be taught not to use that word. But on the basis that God doesn’t accept crude speech. Not because it offends white people.

I wish the word didn’t exist. I wish rappers would stop using it. I wish that I didn’t KNOW that some of my neighbors mutter it when they see me outside. But I also wish that leaves wouldn’t die and that milk didn’t turn sour.

July 22, 2008 Posted by | Barbara Walters, Black Life, Celebrity, Civil Rights, Culture, Current Events, Entertainment, Race, Racial Reconciliation, Racism, Rant, The N Word, The View, Whoopi Goldberg | 18 Comments

“What about if…if ya FAMOUS???”

…Uttered that well-known bigamist songster, Dewey Cox, in “Walk Hard.”

Those words must have been also said by R. Kelly upon being charged with videotaping sex acts with a minor child. We are a culture which deifies our celebrities.

“You can’t pee on a fourteen-year-old child, Mr. Kelly.”

“You can’t have sex with young girls, Mr. Kelly.”

“You can’t marry them either.”

“What about if… if ya famous? What if you write songs that make people think they can fly? What if we did it for love, with a Chicago two-step groove? What if… if you write bumpin’ tracks that make booties shake? Ain’t nuthin’ wrong wit a little bump and grind! Even if the grindee is fifteen. Age ain’t nothin but a number. They be feelin’ me in tha hood, feel me? I re-invented Ronnie Isley, n’umsayin’?! I created the twelve part song/video! I got a movie deal for the idea now.

“Ain’t nobody gone convict me! I’m gifted! My lawyers will delay this thang so long that all the witnesses will be in the AARP by the time we go to trial! And those who do talk won’t have nothing to say. A little Velveeta goes a long way! Besides, that wasn’t me! I don’t care if the cops came in and caught me in mid-stream… Deny deny deny! Nope! Wuddn’ me! That was my brother or somebody… I got a mole. He don’t. He ball headed, I got a afro. You can’t grow moles and afros in eight years. What? My history of having ‘relations’ wit all them other minors is immaterial! (Learned that one from my counselors) The wheels of Justice turn slow enough for me to get out the way first, playa.

“I’m famous. We get off. On tape and on trial. Where my parade at?”

I guess it’s NOT illegal, then. I tell you what… Bett’ not be MY daughter!

June 14, 2008 Posted by | Celebrity, Culture, Current Events, Entertainment, Music, R. Kelly, Show Business | 2 Comments

Bows of Holly

Here is a poem I wrote a few years ago. In light of current occurrences, I thought it apropos… You’ll get it before it ends. Once again, it has meter and rhyme — something that is not entirely in vogue. 

She’s the shining star we all desire

That none can ever rule

Your heart burns for her like a fire

But you are just her tool

She’s the old man’s broken dream

And yet the young boy’s folly

Slicker than a bowl of steam

People call her “Holly”

The face she wears is stunning, though

A most deceptive guise

Her whim will bring you running, though

Her wiles confound the wise

Being seen with her will frame

The diffident secure

Her colder shoulder, though, will name

The confident demure

Morally, she knows no bounds

She’ll draw you to the pit

You marvel at the sights and sounds

And beg for one more “hit”

She’s a fickle paramour

Her lovers span the globe

Their broken hearts on every shore

Still blinded by the strobe

She takes them, chews them up, and spits

Them out like melon seeds

When wined and dined and danced, she quits

Them once they’ve met her needs

What makes a person while so vain,

So ceaselessly divine?

The prize, when won, soon soaks the brain

In salty pickle brine

It could be our necessity

For fortune and for glory

Perhaps we find it best to be

The center of the story

It seems that most would pawn the heart

For billing and a statue

And wouldn’t you tear your soul apart

To have the world look at you?

The masses court disaster for

A night in Babylon

(Of) Illusion she’s the master, for

You’ll wake and she’ll be gone

Your puerile fantasy becomes

A living, breathing hell

The ruling sounds are pounding drums,

And sorrow’s telling knell

You wonder if she really cared

Somewhere down deep within

But in the dark she only bared

A wicked, mordant grin

She prances with the attitude

Of one who knows she’s wanted

She peppers you with platitudes

Her skill is widely vaunted

She seems to prosper, seems to thrive

But most will never know

That Holly needs us to survive

She’ll never let it show

For if we turned our backs on her

She’d wither like a leaf

She hides it well, would much prefer

To revel in our grief

So lose you will on Beverly’s hill

Or dip where Sunset strips

Dance the dance and take your fill

Of Holly’s poison lips

The Siren’s not resisted, so

Don’t stray within her range

The melody is twisted, so

Will certainly derange

Who would grind your soul to powder

Crush you into dust?

Whose seductive song grows louder

Begging for your trust?

Who would rip your heart asunder

Meaning you no good?

(You) Know the answer, needn’t wonder

Surely — Holly would!

Copyright 2001, Derrick L. Williams

January 31, 2008 Posted by | Current Events, Entertainment, Hollywood, Metaphor, Morality, Movies, Poetry | 4 Comments

“Thou Shalt Sell No Bootleg Movies.”

The other day, while the band was on a break, the subject of the new Denzel movie, “American Gangster” came up. A couple of the guys were talking about how good it was, and since it hadn’t come out yet, I asked, “Waitaminnit. How y’all see the movie and it ain’t came out yet?” (My conversational grammar is not always as polished as my published grammar. Besides, there were no White folks around!)

They laughed at me, the church boy.

“Bootleg, mane*! You wont it? I got it,” Dude 1 said. (I’ll not name names here)

“Naw,” I replied. “I’ll wait to see it at the movies.” Chuckling.

Dude 2 laughed and said, “The preacher don’t want to tick the Lord off!”

Dude 1, the seller, eyed me sideways over the top of his shades and asked sarcastically, smiling, 

“The Lord don’t like bootleg?” He was trying to corner me…

“Nope.”

It is important for the sake of timing,  to note that the rest of this exchange came rapid-fire, without pause:

Dude 1 asked, “Aw, rilly**? Where dat at in the Bible?”

” ‘Thou shalt not steal!’  (They fell out laughing!) Yeah, thass EARLY in the story! Thass in the firss act, even before the firss commercial!” (They’re rolling, laughing now, falling backwards and stomping like we Black folk do. We LOVE to laugh.) Yeah, man, you ain’t even gotta be a theologian to know that one! I gotcha, didn’ I?”

“Yeh, mane! I cain’t argah*** witcha right there!” We kept right on laughing.

I don’t get many opportunities to preach to the guys with whom I work, and it is cool when I do. It is a delicate balance– trying to be relevant while not selling out the Lord. They see me as separate, not doing many of the things they do, yet they do not shun me thereby rendering me ineffective.

This is one small reason why I do not see a problem with what I do. I play music for a living. “Secular music.” (I HATE that term! Is YOUR job “secular”?) I don’t get high, I don’t get drunk, I don’t run around with women, etc. And if I slipped, my entire Christian witness would be torn down. But how many street folk read the Bible recreationally? How many of them go to church and ACTUALLY adhere to the ad they hear? We are told to go out inTO the world. That’s where the people are.

These guys knew that selling and buying bootleg movies was wrong. That’s common sense. I didn’t impart some startling new revelation to them. But what I hope I did was to let them know that God is in every corner of life. And that, hopefully by my meager example, it is possible to be holy and still be an enjoyable person to be around. Christian life is not to be boring and stiff! Will Heaven be that way?

*Man
**Really
***Argue

November 13, 2007 Posted by | Christian Life, Christianity, Common Sense, Entertainment, Food for Thought, Humor, Life, Life Lessons, Movies, Playing Music, Work | 2 Comments

Jazz- Proof of God.

I was watching Phil Woods at the recommendation of a friend, and it struck me that something this beautiful could only have been created in us by Someone as sublime as a God. THE God. We didn’t rise from primordial slime to this!

I am glad someone was inspired to invent this instrument, and this vehicle.

I’m glad I play it, and wish I sounded this good! Yes, I’m baised, but I ain’t wrong!

Take six minutes or so, and be carried away.

Thanx, Lord.

August 31, 2007 Posted by | Art, Atheism, Christianity, Entertainment, evolution, God, Intelligent Design, Jazz, Music, Phil Woods | Leave a comment

Let Me Vent For A Moment.

What defines a worthy expense of a life? Do you have to cure a disease, or feed an entire nation? Do you have to build a corporation from scratch, or save lives weekly? I don’t know that we have to succeed to that degree, but what I do know is that, Nicold Richie, Perish Hilton, Lindsey Lowhand, Brittly Spears and their entire ilk define the WASTE of life!They are no different than skid row, train-hopping, M.D. 20/20* drinking, trashcan burning, spare change begging CRACKheads! Only, the crackhead peddlers are at least TALENTED enough to create some of the most astoundingly convincing lies ever uttered.The fact that these “ladies” have money makes it worse.

More can be accomplished with such resources. More than endless, mindless parties, wrecked Bentleys, rehab stints, and sex videos. More than shopping sprees, license suspensions, photo ops with “dogs” that make rats look adorable, and tv shows that make me feel worse for watching than if I licked the floor of a biker bar at closing time!

It’s WAY bad enough that ”woman of the eeevening,” Li’l Kim**, and other “tough” hip-hop performers gain acclaim after run-ins with the law, and after doing time, but now we have socialites, rich, spoiled little divas, sparking world-wide frenzies doing the Perp Walk!! There is an entire segment of the cream of society that spend their whole lives doing heroin, doing cocaine, doing the club circuit, doing multiple partners, and doing nothing!

I see their disciples all the time at the frat parties I occasionally work. I hate it! These kids are catatonically drunk, often racist, and sadly, soon to be the pillars upon which our shriveling hopes rest.

Their conversations are frustratingly vacuous (“That pink blouse is HOT!”), their interests are superficial (“Oh, my God!, is that a Fendi bag?!”) and their thoughts don’t appear to be deep enough to douse a match! (“Yeah…, someday I wanna, like, feed all the hungry babies in Africa, end all the wars, and, like, such as, save the Arizonian rain forests!”). And these are adults!

Yet we immortalize them, we ”celebretize” them in tabloids and on gossip tv shows. We follow their every action, we appropriate their standard of beauty, we adopt their attitudes and their speech patterns, we ape their hairstyles, and we buy their “products.” (Why does every celebrity inevitably, boringly, launch a line of clothes, or some acrid fragrance? Or model? Or try to sing!?)

If these people are the “cream,” I’ll be content down here at the bottom of the glass with the seeds and pulp! They have so much influence, and all they use it for is to help drag down the standard of behavior for our entire population.

On the other hand, now that I think about it, they DO serve a purpose! They exist to make me feel better about myself. Thanks, Paris!

*A cheap, potent potable, if you will, liberally imbibed by the more darkly-hued discriminating  inner-city drunk.

**A stripper, prostit,  rapper.

August 29, 2007 Posted by | Britney spears, Celebrity, Current Events, Entertainment, Fame, Humor, Immorality, Li'l Kim, Life, Lindsey Lohan, Morality, Nicole Richie, Paris Hilton, Rant | 1 Comment