Freddie’s Dead No More

Hip-Hop and Rap, Thoughts on Living

I’m experimenting with a new approach to my blog, and this is the first attempt at it. On Fridays, from here on out, I will be sharing with you my thoughts as they relate to my musical influences. I will be writing long form posts relating to my life, my art, and who knows what else. This will be a series of weekly musings on life. Enjoy.

My introduction to Curtis Mayfield happened through the hip-hop classic of a film, “Friday.” Everyone in the hood knows “Friday.” I mean, you can’t be from a hood in Southern California and not have been exposed to the classic film starring Ice Cube, post “Boyz in the Hood” and “Higher Learning,” and the hilarious Chris Tucker, pre “Rush Hour” and a whole range of other movies where he seemed to always play a thief who was in the wrong place, at the wrong time.

“Freddie’s Dead” by Curtis Mayfield, along with “Little Child Running Wild” were my first taste of the self-identified underground musician and songwriter. Now, keep in mind, the film “Friday” only had portions of both songs featured in the actual movie. It wasn’t until I bought the original movie soundtrack that I had the pleasure of listening to Curtis Mayfield tell his stories of ghetto survival.

I remember buying that album. It happened at a Warehouse Music store in Encinitas, California during the year and a half period where I lived in this tiny surfer town with my mom, brother, and infant sister. We moved there after my parents divorced. Not really sure of the reasons why, but it seemed to have made sense to leave the house we owned in my hometown of Vista, CA, to live in a rented condo a few blocks away from my mom’s job as a mail carrier in Encinitas.

I approached the clerk at the Warehouse Music store several times before that particular day, buying CDs by Ice Cube, Cypress Hill, W.C., Mack 10. It was my West Coast Gangsta Rap period. I don’t really listen to those albums as much anymore. But the original soundtrack for “Friday,” that was a special case.

I actually approached the clerk that day with both versions of the soundtrack. The “original soundtrack” and the “original old-school soundtrack.” On the “original soundtrack,” I was looking forward to finally having the song “Friday” by Ice Cube along with a bunch of other Gangsta Rap songs that I honestly don’t recall recognizing, even then. The “original old-school soundtrack” was something different. I recognized a few songs, like, “I Just Wanna Get Next to You” by Rose Royce, “Lowrider” by WAR, and “Mary Jane” by Rick James. As a new fan of old-school funk and R&B, I had started actively seeking more music from the late-’60s and ’70s to fill out my music collection.

Of all the days, that was the day that I was carded while buying CDs. I don’t know what it was that prompted the clerk at Warehouse Music to card me, but my 15 year old ass could only provide a CA-issued ID that corroborated my under-agedness. Never before had that happened, but on this day, I was not sold any of the albums I carried to the front. No “Friday” soundtrack, no E-40’s “The Element of Surprise,” and no Snoop Dogg’s “Tha Doggfather.” The only album I was allowed to take out of the store was the “Friday: Original Old-School Soundtrack.”

I left Warehouse that afternoon feeling cheated. I was pissed off that I wasn’t allowed to do something that I had been doing for a while. Most adults saw me at age 15 and figured I was over 18. I remember being at one of my mom’s work parties that same summer and being offered a beer, right in front of my mom, which led to an awkward rejection and some laughing about how old I looked. My mom and I glanced at each other as the slushy ice dripped from the Budweiser can. In my mind, I knew I didn’t want the beer, but I suspected that my mom saw me as more than her son in that moment. I think my mom began to struggle with my getting older at that moment. The realization of my lost childhood started to emerge within her subconscious.

As I walked back home from the Warehouse Music, I remember popping in my new “Friday” soundtrack into my DiscMan. Annoyed that I couldn’t get some new hip-hop, I conformed to the fact that I at least had new music to listen to. “Mary Jane” played, followed by WAR, until “Freddie’s Dead” by Curtis Mayfield came on. The double wah-wah guitars playing in harmony with conga drums and a funky bass line. “Freddie’s Dead” proclaimed Curtis Mayfield as he told a story of a man who thought he could lead a good life in spite of his circumstances. I was hooked. Something moved inside of me. I played that shit on repeat.

I haven’t felt that way with music in a while. Now that I’ve acquired a full collection of Curtis Mayfield albums, I can’t help but feel a connection to his lyrics. I play his songs more often when I cruise in my 1969 Impala than any other artists’ music which I’ve collected over the years. There’s something about Curtis Mayfield that makes me think of revolution and social change. Social justice.

I forgot about Snoop’s album, and E-40’s album when I got home. I rocked to Rose Royce and Gladys Knight and the Pips, repeating back Curtis Mayfield’s “Freddie’s Dead” and “Little Child Running Wild” every other song. That had to be my introduction to underground artists. That had to be my introduction to true soul music. That had to be the beginning of beginnings to my transformation from an angry Mexican kid with no direction other than gang culture, to an angry Mexican kid with an agenda of self-determination and empowerment.

Not long after I bought this version of the “Friday” soundtrack, I started to seek out different kinds of artists. The “Bulworth” soundtrack had to be one of those moments where I started to shift over to East Coast Rap. I think the first full length East Coast album I bought after that was Wu-Tang’s “Enter the 36 Chambers,” and that’s when it all started to go in the direction that it went. I’ve now amassed a music library that iTunes tells me is about 24 days worth, if listened to without stop. That’s a lot of music, with approximately 50% being Hip-Hop/Rap, 25% Ranchero/Banda, and the rest a mix of Blues, Jazz, R&B, Reggae, and Rock.

I can’t go a day without listening to music now. Even as I write this, Donny Hathaway croons in the background accompanied by his soulful piano keys. I can’t imagine a life without music. It’s too painful to imagine. But I know that there are a lot of stories that I associate with music, both good and bad, and that is why I feel so passionate about it. This is the beginning of my attempts to recollect how music has impacted my life. I’ll continue to write and share. I just hope that there continues to be a soundtrack in my life that helps me stay relevant in my life and actions. After all, Freddie really ain’t dead if we work hard to preserve his memory.

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2. Do not seek pleasure for its own sake. (an ode to DJ Premier)

Hip-Hop and Rap, Poetry

(from Dokkodo, Volume 1; The Way of Walking Alone)

SP1200 pads cracked, dry
skin covering ashy knuckles
bleed, and Preemo’s his name

brow furled, hard-knocking
beat released, punch-in-your-face
snare, kick-in-your-stomach bass

hip-hop made from scratch

a scratch
his scratch
itched
and music made

hours crate diggin’
rhythm, sampling
a sonic break
alone most nights
he stays awake

women never understand

the appeal the crowd
mass chanting his name
heads bobbing in unison
all giving head, hand
to beastly breaks

a fountain of Redding springs
on the dock of the bay
Preemo rises to forever stay
giving rhythm to voice
to community

This poem is part of my last poetry and photography chapbook, “Dokkodo; Volume 1—The Way of Walking Alone” available online at http://mkt.com/smiley-faze.

Blah…

Fine Art and Illustrations, Hip-Hop and Rap

"Blah..."

A graffiti-inspired drawing from my 2009 sketchbook, digitally colored with the Adobe Ideas app on an iPad 3.

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Jumped Off Into the Sea of Sand

Hip-Hop and Rap, Poetry, Unorthodox Poetry

(for Ms. Badu)

while sailing a boat
long since past the river
feet first
I submerged into thin granules
thickly compacted

ow, a piece of glass
cut me. Did you
get that, did you?

Slowly with quickness
the sand engulfed
my fallen body, racing to the bottom
little-sliding pre-fragments
of glass slip into place
waiting to cover me.

Why panic?
Panicking forces it down
your throat quicker.

The sand so soft.
A warm feeling.
Finally embraced forever.
The weight doesn’t bother me.
And the darkness is pleasing.

Welcome to the hole.

In a video, a beautiful black
woman walks wondering where
to go. On her head
she wears a cocoon made
of paper maché and spit wads
waiting to crack open, free ideas,
dreams along with nightmares.
She seeks healing.

Maybe when she returns
to her hole in the sand
I’ll meet her.

Give me time to wade
through waters that embrace me.

Above is the music video that inspired the preceding poem. Enjoy the soulful sounds of Ms. Erykah Badu.

Culture Cipher Born (A Rap Poem)

Hip-Hop and Rap, Poetry

Doc’s cloudy, milky eye
stares quizingly into the direction
of the Pacific Ocean’s infinity
as if seeking some truth
normally be hidden from the naked eye
but audible to an open ear
and apparent to his milky pupil.

Rap ciphers on the Oceanside beach
and breath, ready to knock out his teeth,
create his first line.

He tries to be an enigmatic figure
traveling measurably on basic beat patterns,
syncopated beatboxing hiccups
that Star Trak never measured
and B-boys rarely visit.

Some call it Realness.
But some underground emcees love to repeat
El-P and Company Flow axioms,
living in vagueness.
Doc lives in outer space terminology
and defecating linguistics.

“Spit travels from my mouth
into existence in a world
where the vapor
reaches distances
that I couldn’t go.
Watch it rise,
watch it fall,
watch it exist
in Cumulo Nimbus
or not at all
when black pigmentation
covers a blank space
concealing whackness,
and showing off my nutrition.

See this is reality
where we let it hang with
spit and abnormality-language.
Ain’t it strange?
We all act deranged
for the sake of our names
in bright lights
someday.”