Capturing the culture that makes Detroit what it is.

7 o’Clock Saturday Stories: Malik Yakini

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Saturday April 26, 2014 I welcome you to join me for the inaugural Detroit is Different event, 7 o’clock Saturday Stories. 7 o’clock Saturday Stories is an hour long conversation between myself and a guest.

Over time I have developed relationships with a mix of people bridging gaps in gender, race, generation, culture and background. This mix has only expanded my perspective of Detroiters, and the collective Detroit story.

7 o’clock Saturday Stories inaugural guest is Malik Yakini. 7 o’clock Saturday Stories will be held at Le Petit Zinc Restaurant in Detroit’s historic Corktown district at 1055 Trumbull St Detroit MI 48216. ‘7 o’clock Saturday Stories’ is a free event that starts at 7PM and welcomes guests of all ages.

Malik Yakini is a person I admire for his vision, work and dedication. Yakini has committed himself to a family of people throughout Detroit’s community. Visions, work and dedications he’s initiated are Nsoroma Institute, Black Star Community Book Store, Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, D Town Farm, and Akoben Reggae Band. Each initiative is genuinely dynamic and fruitful. Every project he’s involved in has empowered, supported, and championed Black people.

Akoben Reggae Band and Malik Yakini with Nsoroma Institute students
Akoben Reggae Band and Malik Yakini with Nsoroma Institute students

Nsoroma Institue was an African centered school based in Detroit city. Nsoroma Institute focused on teaching elementary and middle school students the legacies, traditions, and culture of African people from 1989 through 2011.

Black Star Community Book Store was a book store located in Detroit’s historic fashion district on Livernois Ave at W Outer Drive. Black Star carried a collection of art work, books, music, jewelry and visual art that expressed African and African American culture.

Detroit Black Community Food Security Network was formed in February of 2006 to address food insecurity in Detroit’s Black community, and to organize members of that community to play a more active leadership role in the local food security movement.

D Town Farm was planted in June 2008, the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network acquired use of a two acre site in the City of Detroit’s Meyers’ Tree Nursery in Rouge Park as the home for D-Town Farm.

Akoben Reggae Band is a revolutionary Detroit reggae band. Akoben creates music with a focus in uplifting people and freedom.

Malik Yakini playing guitar, D Town Farm Turnips, Grandfather Yakini and grandaughter Niara
Malik Yakini playing guitar, D Town Farm Turnips, Grandfather Yakini and grandaughter Niara

I personally have known Malik Yakini for over 25 years. I was a student at Aisha Shule when we met. Yakini was an instructor (he was my big sister Dara’s math teacher). Then, and today, I’ve always called him ‘Baba Malik.’ Baba Malik has also been a big supporter of my hip-hop artistry. In 2006, I considered quitting rap altogether. It was a performance at his annual Black Star Community Book Store music festival that recommitted me. The crowd reception and appreciation was astounding.

Black Star Community Book Store also hosted a fundraiser I held for my first album ‘Preaching to the Choir’ in 2007. It was one of my favorite shows ever. The honorable JoAnn Watson, Rev. Ortheia Barnes, Blues Man Paul Miles, Eric Campbell, Nadir Omowale, Early Mac, Idris Weusi, and a collection of kids I rapped with all joine me. I rehearsed and wrote a rap with the kids. I coined the group ‘my little homies.’ I raised a strong amount of money. Even better, the rap with the kids was too much fun. Maria, Jendayi, and Tamia all held me down (then they were all in elementary and now they’re preparing to take the ACT). My cousin Devin Laster, sister Dara Harper and Father Greg Frazier all submitted visual art I auctioned off as well.

Finally, I’ve recorded music with Baba Malik and his son Andwele ‘Money Wells’ Yakini.

Malik Yakini is a very perceptive and intentional speaker. I feel opening up 7 o’clock Saturday Stories with him will be remarkable. Please join us for this creative conversation.

This event will also be audio recorded and released as a podcast on the i-Tunes network Tuesday April 29 2014.

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What if … Don Barden Owned a Detroit Casino

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Daily, Downtown Detroit welcomes thousands of guests visiting the MGM Grand, Greektown, and Motor City Casino. Today, the casino culture has ingratiated itself throughout America’s Midwest. Throughout Ohio, Michigan and Indiana 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, dollars and coins of broken industrial mecca’s are stabilizing casinos.

Casinos in Detroit have become a part of Detroit’s nightlife, entertainment culture and fine dining. In less than 20 years, three businesses have shifted the business identity of Detroit.

In 1996, Proposal E was a lead cause on the November ballot. Many Detroiters joined the cause gathering signatures and support to legalize gaming in Detroit. It was a big political issue. Michigan lawmakers outside of Detroit, business developers connected to Detroit, municipal and state politicians, and residents all made up the diversity of stakeholders in Detroit casinos.

Don Barden
Don Barden

In a resounding effort, Proposal E passed. Casino gaming was legalized in Detroit. Immediately following that, a frenzy of where, when, and who would receive the exclusive rights to Detroit casinos ensued. This politicized, polarized, and produced a climate that was fitting for Detroiters.

Then, Mayor Dennis Archer, along with a collection of supporters (primarily from the suburbs of Detroit) took on Detroit residents (abundantly made up of grassroots activists who led the charge to legalize gaming in Detroit). This chess match of will, wit, ignorance, and arrogance, I believe, helps define the complexity and fabric of Detroit. It’s fitting that a process involving business and political functionality became a personal matter. I feel, throughout my lifetime, Detroit politics have been destructively myopic.

Michael Jackson & Don Barden, Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer
Michael Jackson & Don Barden, Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer

Don Barden (R.I.P.) was an entrepreneur born and bred in Detroit. I met Mr. Barden in passing a number of times.  His demeanor and charm reminded me of a smooth maitre d’. Barden was most known to me and many Detroiters as the owner of Barden Cable. Before Comcast, (ughhh) everyone had Barden. (FYI: If you were willing to climb a telephone pole and hook it up you didn’t have to pay for it, but you ain’t read that from me).  Along with cable television, Barden’s business diversified in many ways. In 1996, a casino in Detroit was his business at heart.

Mayor Archer rejected Barden’s bid for a Detroit casino. This shocked Detroit! There were multiple reasons we believed Barden would build a casino in Detroit. Barden was born in Detroit. Barden was the only Black developer bidding on a casino, in a city that at the time was 85% Black (Barden would have held a majority interest in his casino, there are some Black people with percentiles of a percentage of casino ownership in Detroit). Barden brought in Michael Jackson as a co-developer of the casino as well. Barden also agreed to build an amusement park on the casino premises for families to enjoy.

What If Detroit …

I imagine if Barden would have won his bid for a casino he would have broke ground on a permanent casino as opposed to the temporary casino structures initially opened in Detroit. I think a permanent location would have been needed because of Barden’s amusement park. This development would have taken longer, but led to a grand opening.

Partnering with Michael Jackson heightens international attention and fame. Leveraging this partnership, I believe, the casino would have an entertainment theme. Naturally, the gala events honoring the 25th Anniversary of Michael Jackson’s Thriller album, Motown’s historic Motown 50, and Aretha Franklin’s birthday parties would be held at Barden’s casino.

Michael Jackson’s collection of rare and exotic animals would lend an attraction to the amusement park. I enjoy the Detroit Zoo, but have always wished for it to be more interactive. I see horse, camel, and even elephant rides available for younger children. The excitement of an interactive Zoo for younger children would be mirrored by the excitement of rollercoasters and water slides for myself and other older kids.

Michael Jackson & pet lion, Rollercoaster, Don Barden & Bella Marshall
Michael Jackson & pet lion, Rollercoaster, Don Barden & Bella Marshall

Matching Don Barden in style and savvy was his wife, Bella Marshall (R.I.P.). With Marshall I shared a few longer conversations about creativity and bringing things to action. I gathered a better understanding for the endurance and vision Barden had through Marshall. She was extremely theoretical about reaching goals and settling for less was unsettling for her.  Many women I meet acknowledge the marriage of Shawn ‘Jay-Z’ Carter and Beyonce Knowles as a power couple to aspire towards in business and relationship.  Detroit for years had that example in Don Barden and Bella Marshall.

Marshall’s influence on the casino would have been political and cultural. Politically, I believe, Marshall would have been instrumental in developing passages for the roads of travelers to meet the destination of the casino easiest. Culturally, I think Marshall would have been instrumental in developing a marketplace inside the casino that captures the essence of Detroit fashions, foods and nightlife. Till this day, every time I visit casinos in Detroit, I feel it’s clean and welcoming, but not Detroit.

Finally, I imagine the success of Barden’s Detroit casino would have pressured the other two Detroit casinos to take chances on hiring, contracting, and working with Detroit developers with business models catered to Detroit. I think the current business models look to make the Detroit casinos adapt to Las Vegas concepts. Business is a copycat model towards success. In copying Barden’s model of success, opportunities for more savvy Detroit business people with Detroit ideas would have been created.

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Around Detroit: Le Petit Zinc

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Le Petit Zinc is a restaurant located in Detroit’s Corktown district (1055 Trumbull Detroit MI 48216). The ‘Zinc’ specializes in authentic French cuisine. The entrepreneur and owner is Karima Sorel. Karima is a visual artist, world traveler and personal friend. “I want people to feel alive and taste the world visiting Le Petit Zinc,” Sorel.

Zinc A

The Le Petit Zinc offers diners a variety of crepes, salads, croissants and baguettes. Open from 10am – 4pm Monday through Saturday; and 9am – 3pm on Sunday’s; Le Petit Zinc serves breakfast as well. Complimenting breakfast is a full service café with espressos, coffees, cappuccinos and mochas. Le Petit Zinc menu offers a world experience, at a reasonable cost. Visit online and see what you’d like to order when you visit  www.lepetitzincdetroit.com .

I think it’s a very colorful and cool place to visit. Le Petit Zinc is a change of pace from heavier food, and the industrial look of most modern restaurants. Sorel’s artistry fills the restaurant with her visions of traveling the world.

Zinc B

Le Petit Zinc also plays an important role in Detroit is Different. Monthly I am hosting an event at the Le Petit Zinc, “Seven O’Clock Saturday Stories.” The event will be a conversation between myself and a guest welcoming an audience. Le Petit Zinc offers a great feel and look for this live event/podcast recording.

Seven O’Clock Saturday Stories premieres Saturday April 26 2014 at 7pm at Le Petit Zinc 1055 Trumbull Detroit MI 48216. The inaugural guest is Malik Yakini of the Detroit Food Security Network. This event is free and welcome for all guests.

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Around Detroit: Ernie Harwell Exhibit

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In 1966 Ernie Harwell began donating Baseball memorabilia to the Detroit Public Library. At the time Harwell was a young sports broadcaster for the Detroit Tigers.

From 1960 – 2002 Detroit Tigers broadcasts were led by the charming southern drawl of Ernie Harwell.

Harwell passed in 2010. His legacy and impact on the Tigers, baseball and Detroit remain significant.

Ernir Harwell Collection A photography by Mark Mastropietro
Ernie Harwell Collection photography by Mark Mastropietro

Ernie was born in a small Georgia town. He began his broadcast career for a minor league baseball team in Atlanta. In 1948 Ernie moved up to Major League Baseball, and began calling games for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Harwell’s older brother was a librarian.  Upon his brother’s encouragement, Ernie began donating baseball memorabilia, books and artifacts to the Detroit Public Library. For over 40 years generous donations grew into an expansive collection.  Today the Ernie Harwell exhibit embodies the history of baseball.

The Ernie Harwell collection is at Detroit’s Main Public Library. Dawn Eurich manages the Harwell collection. The Harwell collection is a part of the Burton Historical collection. Touring the exhibit is free for all library card holders (all ages and Michiganders are welcome for a tour). Upon my visit, I found the most compelling artifact to be Roberto Clemente’s bat.

Ernie Harwell Collection photography by Mark Mastropietro
Ernie Harwell Collection photography by Mark Mastropietro

I find Harwell’s commitment to the Tigers and baseball motivating. I also appreciate the way he’s shared his enthusiasm for baseball with Detroiters. As an avid sports fan, music enthusiast and movie buff the Harwell collection is admirable.

I suggest you visit the collection. Take photos, and experience a piece of Detroit Tiger history. Here’s the link to the exhibit ErnieHarwellCollection  .

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Make it Last (Forever Detroit): Lyrical Breakdown

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‘Make it Last (Forever Detroit)’ has been very well received over the years. I’m glad so many people appreciate the lyrics. I also enjoy hearing their interpretations of the lyrics. Here is mine.

Verse One (Click Play below to hear the Music)

Reflections of reformed wildboys running the streets

When pick em’ up mess em’ up wasn’t nuthin’ for me

Explanation

As a kid growing up on Detroit’s Westside I spent hours playing outside. ‘Pick em Up Mess em Up’ was a game I played a lot. ‘Pick em Up Mess em Up’ is football, without a football, and enough players. It’s a game played on an empty field where two touchdown zones are agreed upon by the players. After the touchdown zones are established, an object that substitutes as a football is selected (In Example: an empty 2 liter soda bottle). Players take turns picking up the object. When the object is picked up by one player, every other player attempts to gang tackle whoever picked up the object.

In retrospect, this was the most dangerous game we played. I’m sure that’s why we enjoyed the game so much. In memory, the only person I’ve remember scoring a touchdown playing the game was Braylon Edwards. It was evident at a young age he had the talent to play in the NFL.

But from 7 to 11 dudes took on the streets

Playing with working 20’s not hide and go seek

Explanation

7 to 11 years old was a precious age for me. I moved from my childhood neighborhood at 11. This was also when some of my neighborhood friends began losing interest in school, and began selling drugs.

A working 20 is a 5th of an ounce of cocaine or marijuana. This amount of drugs is ‘fronted’ to sale to an introductory level drug dealer. The dealer would ‘work’ off the cost of the drugs, by selling the drugs, and receiving less profit (consignment). The science of economics is not generally recognized or analyzed in low cost drug transactions. Albeit, every economic premise can be witnessed.

Science of Rap

The subliminal double entendre has always been a beloved rap technique in lyricism to me. Cam’ Ron, Jay –Z and Drake are artists I feel who have mastered the skill. One of the most recognizable and coined lyrics for this is Jay-Z’s: “I’m not a businessman/ I’m a business man,” in Kanye West’s “Diamonds are Forever (Remix).”

I used this technique mentioning ‘7 to 11.’ The brand is widely recognized for the 24 hour convenient store. I wanted listeners to envision that. Ideally, I expected listeners to believe my friends took to the streets with 24 hour long dedication.

Kids Playing in the Street, Braylon Edwards, Michael and Michaela Willingham
Kids Playing in the Street, Braylon Edwards, Michael and Michaela Willingham

We aint even understand we was falling for realities

Street life formalities, urban externalities

All we really wanted was just sumthin’ to move

Cause Pelle Pelle and some Penny’s was the things that’s cool

Explanation

I believe the extrinsic value of material goods can be internalized as intrinsic benchmarks of success. Therefore, I’ve spent a life time looking to define my success through the people, projects and things I find fulfilling. It’s a challenge.

I think culturally Americans have a propensity to spend money. I believe we define ourselves with material items. Many Detroiters’ I know define themselves with goods I call ‘Street Luxuries.’

Theoretically the belief system of defining a self image with cars, clothes, jobs, social circles and residencies, is a social construct. We believe society castes these expectations upon us. This is why I make reference to the idea that we fell into a reality, where we face externalities (an externality is the cost or benefit that affects a party who did not choose to incur that cost or benefit).

‘Street Luxuries’ Detroiters often seek are residencies outside of Detroit (preferably away from other Detroiters), Alligator skin shoes, Cartier glasses frames, gaudy leather jackets and new Chevrolets. Gaudy leather jackets with designs of Tony Montana, Tutankhamen, Detroit street signs and gun arsenals are beloved. Pelle Pelle is a Detroit based leather apparel brand that releases Fall and Winter collections.

I’ve been in numerous conversations with male Detroiters who believe their success in meeting women was exclusively because they were wearing a Pelle Pelle jacket. As a teenage boy focused on girls, any item that raises the opportunity to successfully meet a girl is an essential. The fixation towards ‘Air Jordan’ sneakers (many young Black men share) I believe is for the same reason. I also reference Penny’s. Penny’s were the $185 Nike sneakers worn by Orlando Magic point guard Anfernee Hardaway. Upon their release the sneakers became the most expensive Nike’s ever. The cost and dynamic look made Penny’s a sought after ‘Street Luxury.’

And girls wanted immature but they ain’t go to our school

They was tapped up on they locker but not in homeroom

And now we get it in chasing lust from all ends

With fears of commitment from heartbreak back then

Making up for adolescence life grown men

Understood Michael Jackson through my own life sins

Pelle Pelle Jacket; Cannon, Mio 'Kaunn' & Syncere Thomas and Penny Sneakers
Pelle Pelle Jacket; Cannon, Mio ‘Kaunn’ & Syncere Thomas and Penny Sneakers

Explanation

Puberty has had a lasting effect on the way I interact with women I’m attracted to. My desire and lust towards girls was prominent as a teenager. Then many of my interactions with females I interpreted as rejection. My fear of rejection overtime created a cocky attitude. My attitude when to approaching a woman is to not give her an option to reject me. Conceptually, this came to fruition when I experienced more luck approaching women.

By the time I garnered more attention from females, I was less appreciative of it. When I was younger and more eager to receive female attention, I had none.

At a younger age I believed girls only idolized boys with characteristics that I didn’t possess. I make reference to girls taping up pictures of ‘Immature’ on their locker. ‘Immature,’ was a Black boy band that came to notoriety during the mid 1990’s. I remember how the girls in middle school would pick members of the band to be their boyfriend. I saw this, and felt left out.

As we getting older we got families to raise

Hanging out with boots and Dora gone make up Birthdays

As we sip a little liquor and we cut the cake

Cause what’s real is the future so the past is fake

As I bottle up our wisdom from my past mistakes

And I breathe upon the seeds to make a path create

Explanation

From 2004 – 2009 many of my closest friends all fathered children. Tristin, Phil, Mio, Mike, Brandon and Kevin began their families one after another. Today, many have two or three children. At the time it was experiential to be hanging out with my homeboys and their infants. Collectively we gave the infants an insurmountable amount of attention and love.

I vividly remember the day my friend Mike Willingham’s daughter Michaela was born. Chico, Mike and I were hanging out at Fairlane Mall in Dearborn MI. We were having lunch at Starter’s Restaurant. Mike received a call from his baby sister Amber. Amber notified Mike that Keisha (Michalea’s Mother) was going into labor. Upon notice we headed to Botsford Hospital in Farmington Hills MI. Along the way I stopped at CVS to buy some inexpensive cigars and ‘Huggies Swindlers.’ I had no idea what diapers new born babies use. The sales associate at CVS was helpful and informative. Today I often tell Michaela I bought her first outfit.

Though my actions contradict a lot of things I say

Cause school ain’t making money and I’m bout my bank

And I decide on what to do from all the cash at stake

While I’m forced to make decisions from the cash I waste

Explanation

This stanza of the verse captures the confusion I felt towards life at the time. I felt life needed structure. I never felt comfortable conforming to it. At 25 I believed economic access, mobility and opportunity were primary life objectives. I consistently challenged this belief by looking to earn wealth from a collection of activities that lacked a clearly defined money making apparatus.

 

Verse Two (Click Play below to hear the Music)

I’m considered as a thinker

I engage street dreamers

With Macro Economics studied for my reasons

Justifying hoods by telling Wall Street demons

Tupac and Noam Chomsky what I’m believing

Noam Chomsky, The Undertaker and Tupac Shakur
Noam Chomsky, The Undertaker and Tupac Shakur

Explanation

Throughout life I’ve often been told I’m smart. This is humbling, because I’ve always felt misunderstood. My insecurities about being misunderstood is the reason I’m a rapper. I idolized young Black men I felt spoke what, when and how they wanted to about life.

Today I realize through reminiscing, playing my music and conversation, I’m often seeking an understanding in myself as well. It’s sad that for years I resented others for doing what I’ve done to myself for just as long.

I have a wide range of interests that I’m constantly feeding with pop culture, conversation and independent study. I gather wells of information towards of my many interests. I apply my life’s journey to these concepts for better understandings.

In ExampleRecently I was reading a Wall Street Journal blog about the drop of WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) stock buyers. The drop in stock took place after Wrestlemania 2014. At Wrestlemania 2014, ‘The Undertaker (wrestler)’ lost. In 20 years of wrestling ‘The Undertaker’ has never lost a match at Wrestlemania, till now. Upon reading this blog my thought process captures the following concepts: I think back to his introduction as the unknown wrestler in the 1992 Royal Rumble. I honor the respect I have for Vince McMahon in business creativity and vision. I ask myself, when in life have I diverted from an expected path to choose an alternative? Why did I choose this method? At what opportunity cost will I lose the expected benefits for the risk of the new rewards?

In less than a minute my mind processes that information. Complimented by dozens of other questions, thoughts and ideas. The same imagination I had playing with toys as a child I apply towards life. I imagine being Vince McMahon, creating a new reality for the WWE.

I believe my thought process affects the way people hear my music.

This stanza also honors two people I admire; Tupac Shakur (RIP) and Noam Chomsky. Tupac Shakur used poetic techniques and interpersonal stories in his raps. His creativity drew lasting images in my mind. Tupac’s boldness to explore insecurities, misunderstandings and paranoia humble me as a rapper. Noam Chomsky is an MIT linguistics professor who wrote the acclaimed book ‘Manufacturing Consent.’ Chomsky’s work challenges American politics, economics and social design. Chomsky’s practical views on complex societal challenges amazes me. I study his work to gain an understanding of how to give new ideas mass appeal.

On a paper chase cause my crew stay eating

Cause 6 figure moves is just how I’m thinking

IRS chase deals that’ll pull in a mil

Wanna make a little less to keep em’ outta my grill

Explanation

As stated earlier, at 25 years old my mind was fixated on money. I find this stanza clever, because it makes reference to making less money on paper.

My paternal Grandfather Don Scott (RIP) always said lists of top earning Black entrepreneurs (Black Enterprise) are incriminating. He believed any Black person listed as a top earning American would face fed time, tax issues or excessive law suits. My Grandfather was correct, in regards to the three Black billionaires I’ve met (LaVan Hawkins, Mel Farr and Don Barden RIP). All three faced criminal, tax or civil challenges that compromised their wealth.

As I’m plotting on tomorrow but survive for now

While advocating for a city that’s dying out

Population drop cause ain’t no jobs in town

Just the poor and their leeches that hang around

& take the town for everything that make it count

even the Mayor of Detroit don’t live in town

but on the cusp of the deals that’ll turn it around

Explanation

I wrote these lyrics from the perspective of Rev. David Bullock, Brandon Jessup and Yusef Shakur. Their very close friends of mine. All three men have committed themselves to Detroit. Advocating for Detroit has been conflicting for them. They have experienced more acclaim, appreciation and opportunity outside of Detroit.

While writing this record Mayor Dave Bing held office in Detroit. Bing resided in Southfield MI before he began his mayoral campaign. I remember local newspapers quoting Mayor Bing’s wife. She claimed “the only way I’m would moving to Detroit is if my husband wins the election.”

Michaela Willingham drawn by Mike Will and the Crew at the Annual Cookout: Zae, Carl, Mike, Dawon and Khary
Michael Willingham drawn by Mike Will and the Crew at the Annual Cookout: Zae, Carl, Mike, Dawon and Khary

it’s ironic . . . and I can’t complain

it’s only wise to concern myself with things I change

So I support all my people from the day to day

and stay focused on my grind as I work the game

by staying grounded by the people that’ll keep me sane

and spending time with the people from where I came

& I came from a place that’s a home for struggle

so we all about come ups and stay on hustles

and our hustle is the rise just to make it by

Explanation

I close the song by recognizing in confusion I have a strong sense of comfort in Detroit. This comfort, I believe can be seen as blight, lacks of opportunity and antiquated infrastructures. There is a fabric of truth in those arguments, but I disagree. I find friends and family in Detroit. These relationships help define me. I also am inspired by the chances I can take in Detroit. There are many homes for networks, relationships and activities centered in creativity here. I feel Detroit incubates creativity.

Science of Rap

Pacing and spacing while delivering a rap is a skill I’ve developed an appreciation for. This technique is subtle, and one of the most effective talents when executed correctly. Two of my favorite rappers and Houston TX veterans are masters of this; Pimp C of UGK (RIP) and Scarface.

Scarface’s persona throughout the ‘My Diary’ album is great. This is best captured in the song ‘I Seen a Man Die.’ The way he performs the song is conversational and impactful. I believe this led to the success of the song.

I used this technique stating “it’s ironic … but I can’t complain.” I wanted listeners to feel the hypocritical messages delivered throughout the song.

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Make it Last (Forever Detroit): Song Background

in Lyric Breakdown & Background by

The music I used for this song was taken from Keith Sweat’s 1987 song titled ‘Make it Last Forever.’  The song and album (of the same name) were successful records during the New Jack Swing era of R&B. Teddy Riley produced the song.

Coming of age, during the New Jack Swing era, I always appreciated the big drums, keys and samples in the music. Riley is regarded as the “Godfather” of New Jack Swing (New Jack Swing is a style of music that blends 1980’s style hip-hop music with 1980’s style R&B, soul and funk).

Keith Sweat, New Jack Kings, Detroit Mayor JeromeCavanagh & Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and Family
Keith Sweat, New Jack Kings, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and Family and Detroit Mayor Jerome Cavanagh

The  music and era influenced many hip-hop artists. In 2010, I found out that two of the best rappers from Detroit dedicated an album to the music. T Calmese of the Subterraneous Crew  & Vaughan T of Athletic Mic League came together and created ‘New Jack Kings.’ ‘New Jack Kings is a project that exclusively uses music production created through sampling New Jack Swing music. My friend Nick Speed sampled Bell Biv Devoe’s ‘Poison’ … it’s amazing.

I used three vocal samples in the song to create an essence of Detroit. The samples included interview exerts from Mayor Jerome Cavanagh, researcher Kurt Metzger and Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.  Mayor Jerome Cavanagh begins the song. Mayor Cavanagh speaks about how Detroit flourished to automotive opulence. This is followed by an interview with researcher Kurt Metzger. Metzger explains the journey of Detroit and Highland Park from 1965 to 2005. Metzger recognizes the loss of manufacturing employment, polarizing racism and antiquated business ideologies throughout the Metro Detroit region. The closing sample is from Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. Mayor Kilpatrick speaks about the opportunities throughout Detroit. Mayor Kilpatrick’s belief that Detroit is moving towards excellence is evident throughout his interview.

The lyrics I performed on this song were originally written and performed on “Not Sweet”.  ‘Not Sweet’ was a song featured on my 2009 album release “notes of an Artist & Activist II.”

I wrote the lyrics in 2008. I was 25 years old, heading to 26, with many of my perspectives towards life changing. I spent a lot of time speaking with, planning with and hanging with Brandon Jessup and Michael Willingham. Friendships with both have truly blossomed my growth. My imagination thrives when I have the chance to share conversations with people I feel understand me and challenge my ideas. Mike Will and BJ are key members in a collective of friends who add to my confidence.

Mike Will, BJ & the Crew
Mike Willingham, Brandon Jessup with US Vice Pressident Joe Biden and the Crew: Kasey, Mike, Chico, Zae, Dawon, Phil Jerrin and Khary

Brandon leads the non-profit organization Michigan Forward. Michigan Forward’s mission is to create progressive public policy initiatives for state and local government. Currently Brandon is a candidate in the 10th district for Michigan State Representative. You can find out more about Brandon’s campaign through his website by clicking the following link BrandonJessup .

Michael is the center of our collective. Everyone who’s been invited to and attended our annual cookout is connected to Mike. Mike is also an extremely talented visual artist. He currently runs the ‘Grind Ave’ urban apparel clothing line.  You can experience his artistry through his instagram account by clicking the following link michaelroze .

My lyrics for ‘Make it Last (Detroit Forever)’ chronicles my friendships’ with Mike and BJ. It’s a coming of age story in arts and politics. In writing the record, I challenged myself to welcome the listener into discussions we’ve shared. I wanted to capture the pressure I felt at 25 years old looking towards 30. Collectively, I felt we enjoyed the existence of being children inspired to create. There, after we were pressured into being labeled “Black”, then pressured into being labeled Detroiters and finally being pressured into being labeled adults. I felt we were essentially being challenged to change.

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Make it Last (Forever Detroit)

in WAE Music by

Make it Last (Forever Detroit)

Song Performed by Khary WAE Frazier
with samples of Keith Sweat & Jacci McGhee
Written & Produced by Teddy RIley & Keith Sweat
Lyrics by Khary WAE Frazier taken from “Not Sweet”
featured on the Notes of an Artist/ Activist Album 2009
exerts from Detroit Mayors Jerome Cavanagh & Kwame Kilpatrick/ Kurt Metzger Detroit Area Community Indicator System & Lloyd Jackson WJR

Verse One
Reflections of reformed wildboys running the streets
When pick em’ up mess em’ up wasn’t nuthin’ for me
But from 7 to 11 dudes took on the streets
Playing with working 20’s not hide and go seek
We aint even understand we was falling for realities
Street life formalities, urban externalities
All we really wanted was just sumthin’ to move
Cause Pelle Pelle and some Penny’s was the things that’s cool
And girls wanted immature but they ain’t go to our school
They was tapped up on they locker but not in homeroom
And now we get it in chasing lust from all ends
With fears of commitment from heartbreak back then
Making up for adolescence life grown men
Understood Michael Jackson through my own life sins
As we getting older we got families to raise
Hanging out with boots and Dora gone make up Birthdays
As we sip a little liquor and we cut the cake
Cause what’s real is the future so the past is fake
As I bottle up our wisdom from my past mistakes
And I breathe upon the seeds to make a path create
Though my actions contradict a lot of things I say
Cause school ain’t making money and I’m bout my bank
And I decide on what to do from all the cash at stake
While I’m forced to make decisions from the cash I waste

Verse Two
I’m considered as a thinker
I engage street dreamers
With Macro Economics studied for my reasons
Justifying hoods by telling Wall Street demons
Tupac Noam Chomsky what I’m believing
On a paper chase cause my crew stay eating
Cause 6 figure moves is just how I’m thinking
IRS chase deals that’ll pull in a mil
Wanna make a little less to keep em’ outta my grill
As I’m plotting on tomorrow but survive for now
While advocating for a city that’s dying out
Population drop cause ain’t no jobs in town
Just poor people and their leeches that hand around
& take the town for everything that make it count
even the Mayor of Detroit don’t live in town
but on the cusp of the deals that’ll turn it around
it’s ironic . . . and I can’t complain
it’s only wise to concern myself with things I change
So I support all my people from the day to day
and stay focused on my grind as I work the game
by staying grounded by the people that’ll keep me sane
and spending time with the people from where I came
& I came from a place that’s a home for struggle
so we all about come ups and stay on hustles
and our hustle is the rise just to make it by

Lyrics written in 2008 by Khary Frazier all rights reserved for General Population Music

WAE Break-Back A copy

My 18th Birthday

in My Detroit Story by

When Madonna struck a vogue I was 8 years old/ My family was the Cosby’s round broken homes/ Me and my sister Dara stuck together and rolled,” Music Picture written by K Frazier May 2013 Unreleased

There are so many people I can thank and honor, beginning most with my immediate family. From 1997 – 2006 I’d spend hours dreaming, creating and planning my life as a hip-hop artist. The summer of 2000 was significant in my growth as an artist. I began recording music consistently.

I worked the inaugural season for Comerica Park. I devoted most of every pay check to studio time. (In 1999 I bought a Radio Shack Concertmate keyboard from monies made working at Burger King. I’ve worked for many quick service restaurants).

That summer of 2000 I recorded music on the Eastside at Bruce Banner’s studio. I was introduced to Bruce Banner through DJ Illusions (Mr. Nice Guy). I met DJ Illusions at Tyrone Bradley’s hip-hop Summit earlier that year at the St. Regis Hotel.

I traveled from Dexter & Davison to Chandler Park Dr. with my rap partner Mario ‘Mad Talent’ Tatum (Wadi Tatum-El). We couldn’t be more excited. I planned everything in advance for our first visit to Bruce Banner’s studio. Too bad plans changed. Entering the studio I immediately set up my Concertmate keyboard and played the music for Bruce Banner. He started laughing at my music as he passed a blunt to Keylo Parker. “That shit ain’t even quantized. What type of bullshit keyboard is that,” Bruce Banner. I responded. I told him it was a Concertmate from Radio Shack. His laughter carried on. Making matters worse, I had no idea what quantization was. I should have been embarrassed. I was focused on if this time he spent chiefing (smoking marijuana) and laughing at my music would cost against the $50 for 2 hours of studio time … it did. Bruce offered a deal to provide a beat, and 2 hours of studio time for $200. I agreed to the deal. We came back to the studio 2 weeks later. I had my next check. For our next visit we filled the studio with all my friends that wanted to come (Loren Braxton, Brandon Williams and Thomas Fountain). Mario recorded his verse with ease. I stumbled through a sloppy rap (I did not know what a bar was at the time). We loved the song. Leaving the studio Bruce Banner agreed to re-create each of my beats from the Concertmate with better equipment for $100 each.

We played the song over and over again that night. Heading back to the Westside closing our travels at Dexter Coney Island we came to a consensus, we needed the music. I called Bruce Banner in the morning, and told him to give me a month to earn 2 checks to recreate 5 of my beats. THAT MONTH, working at Comerica Park my generally lackadaisical attitude (towards everything but rap) was inspired. If you happened to visit my Italian sausage cart in section 116 the summer of 2000 you got great food and better service. I made enough in tips to cover the $500 in 3 weeks, and paid Bruce Banner the morning I had the cash. 2 days later, Bruce had the music. Mario and I eagerly went to hear the music. It was nothing like the music I made. Disappointed, but focused on rapping we selected the 2 best beats of the 5. Bruce agreed to let us record those songs for no additional costs. It was obvious I needed better equipment myself.

I visited the best producer I knew at the time, Paul Hemphill. I asked him what equipment to buy? Paul suggested a Triton. I would often go to Guitar Center in Southfield MI, but never with particular equipment in mind (Guitar Center is a store that carries music equipment). Guitar Center carried the Triton at a cost of $2,500. At 17 years old I felt like a hedge fund manager having $500. $2,500 was immeasurable. Never in my life have I seen so much cash. The Tiger’s season was ending, school was coming up, and I had one option to get a better keyboard. Ask my parents.

I felt $2,500 was too much to ask for. I asked for $1,500 instead. $1,500 was the cost to buy a Roland XP60. Though Paul suggested a Triton, he owned a Roland XP80. Paul made the best music I ever heard at the time (he eventually went on to ghost produce some of Mario Winans’ Bad Boy music). The difference between the XP80 and XP60 was $300 in cost and 20 keys on the keyboard. I had no formal musical training, so I cared less about 20 keys and more about having access to the sounds Paul used.

That night I pleaded with my parents to sign up and get a Guitar Center credit card to buy a XP60. My Dad began laughing at the cost as my Mom joined in the laughter saying, “you can buy a car for that!” They both turned to me and asked how much did I want the XP60? I told them “the Neptunes, Timbaland and Hi-Tek all use a XP60 and I NEED IT!” My parents looked at me dumbfounded by who I mentioned. I was dumbfounded by them not knowing who they were. My Dad said, “No you got a job. Figure it out.”

I was so depressed from not convincing my parents to buy a XP60 that starting my senior year at Northwestern HS, I stopped rapping. Because I stopped rapping; for the first time since pre-school (finger paint & recess) I actually gave effort to school work. I earned a 4.5 GPA with honors (honestly, Northwestern HS ain’t exactly Harvard, but a 4.5 with honors is note worthy). My Mom and Grandmother were ecstatic. My Mom paid the money to list me in the ‘Who’s Who in American HS Students’ year book. I was glad to see them both happy. Not so long ago I earned a 1.0 GPA at King HS (hence the transfer to Northwestern).

Leading into Christmas the night of my birthday (December 23rd 2000) my family surprised me. My Mom and I picked up my big Sister Dara from the train station (this was the start of her college Christmas vacation). After we got Dara, my Mom drove to Southfield under the premise of getting Long John Silver’s. She suggested we visit Guitar Center for my birthday. Walking into Guitar Center with my Mom she asked ‘what did I want?’ I marched into the Pro Audio section like the cartoon image of the emperor during the parade of ‘The Emperor Wears No Clothes.’ I asked for a Roland XP60. It wasn’t in stock. Disappointed, I pleaded with my Mom to go to Mars Music (at the time there were 2 music stores for Pro Audio in Southfield MI). She agreed to visit Mars Music. The XP60 was out of stock there as well. I was upset. I felt the forces of the world were working against me again.

My Mom continued to speak with the salesman at Mars Music. He suggested the Korg Triton workstation. I never entertained owning a Triton because it cost so much money. The Triton cost $2,800 at Mars Music. My Mom said she was only going to spend $1,500. As my Mom and the salesman talked, my Sister pulled out her Freshman college credit card to cover the $1,300 cost difference. I almost cried. I couldn’t believe my Mom, Dad and Dara all collectively supported me getting something I wanted.

On the ride home my Mom told me to thank my Dad as well. When I got home I thanked the three of them like Vondie Lee Curtis meeting Eddie Murphy in ‘Coming to America.’ Words can’t describe the way I felt setting up equipment in my junky bedroom. I owned equipment the Neptunes made Jay-Z records with. That night my family shared Long John Silver’s and stories of my childhood. The smile on my face was only off set by the smiles of my Mom, Dad and Sister wishing me a happy 18th birthday.

In retrospect my Father was correct. I should have gotten a car. It took months for me to figure out how to use the Triton.

KORG Triton
KORG Triton

It’s humbling that my whole life I’ve had the uncompromising support and love from the first three people I’ve ever known. My immediate family has encouraged me through the many misunderstandings I’ve given them.

For so long I’ve carried a chip on my shoulder. I know why I’ve burned so many personal bridges. My ‘Big 3’ (Mom, Dad and Dara) having unconditional love for me. This has humbled me over time. They’ve all recognized my downfalls when I haven’t, and stayed committed to me.

I’ve been very unappreciative to the blessings of life. It’s sad that material possessions and extrinsic experiences have made me acknowledge this.

The Detroit parallel I can make is the way we take our water for granted. Detroiters badger Detroit more than any home-towners I know. Albeit we don’t acknowledge the blessings of an abundance of nature’s life blood.

Love you Mom, Love you Dad, Love you Dara, Love you Detroit

WAE Music A copy

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