Monday, July 16, 2018

I have made it known on more than one occasion that Rakim is my favorite rapper. I know that Jay-Z is more prolific, and Black Thought may have better rhymes and Ice Cube may have better stories, and Eminem may be more technically sound, but when Rakim pulls off a thoughtful, symmetrical rhyme, I feel oddly fulfilled considering I get no personal or financial gain. I have felt that way since 1987 when I first heard him, and that feeling has lasted 31 years.

But the reality about someone my age (43) having a favorite rapper who is 50 (as Rakim turned on January 28th) is that there are long periods of inactivity. Yes there are tours and yes there are greatest hits collections, but when most rappers get close to and even pass the 50 year old threshold (the exceptions are Chuck D and Jay-Z) it is rare to hear new music. And up until a few weeks ago, Rakim was no exception.

He had been doing tours and lectures all around the world, and I'm sure he solidified his elevated status with established fans and won over some previously ignorant fans, but there had been no new music for over almost 10 years. I actually went to see him during one of those tours, when he showed up at the Blue Note in NYC backed by the legendary Roots crew. He looked good (Rakim was never a great live perform, but his stellar rhymes served as the perfect misdirection), he sounded good, and he teased new music, but nothing happened. And don't even get me started on that failed Dr. Dre/Rakim collaboration

But a few months ago, I was minding my own business on Instagram (which is as oxymoronic of a statement as I've made in a while), and I noticed that Ali Shaheed Muhammad just casually posted this clip of Rakim rhyming.. Muhammad (along Adrian Younge) helped score the first season of Luke Cage and for Season 2, they decided to bring Rakim into the fray.

Now I don't know if an album is forthcoming or if he will continue to work with the Muhammad/Younge duo, and frankly it doesn't matter right now. What does matter is that Rakim Allah resurfaced to make some damn good music in 2018. It's the little things...

Monday, July 09, 2018

First off, I write for Forbes now, so please go read

Second, my friend Nichole wrote a book, go buy it

Now, I would like to profess my profound appreciation for single parents--both male and female.

I am currently in the fourth of a six day wife-less stint, meaning it has just been my son and me during that span. So allow me to get the politically-correct touchy feely stuff out of the way.

I love my son and I love it when we have extended one-on-one time. Since his mother has been out of town on "business" in sunny Orlando, we've watched Black Panther, learned the Wakanda greeting, played the game Trouble, talked about the pretty girls in his summer camp, listened to Barry White's "Playing Your Game Baby" over and over and we even practiced the breaststroke in and out of the water. Occasionally, he'll hit me with a "Daddy I miss Mommy" and I promise him that we'll talk to her via FaceTime at some point during the day. This is quality bonding time and one day both of us will look back on this fondly,

But man..having to be the center of my son's attention during his every waking hour is some incredibly draining sh*t. Even when he's doing something that should seemingly be all consuming like playing games on the iPad, he has to call me over every 30 seconds by saying, "Daddy look at this!" or he'll regale me with a detailed explanation about the superpowers of one of his many toys/action figures. I humor him because it is hard to shun those big beady eyes, and the accompanying excitement, but damn. Sometimes I want to watch the World Cup, or NBA Summer League or wild porn--and he makes it nearly impossible to sustain any meaningful momentum doing anything of those things---until he goes to sleep of course and by that time, I'm tired too.

But nothing epitomizes my frustration more than what went down in the grocery store.

If you've ever taken a kid under the age of 10 to the grocery store, you know that kids absolutely go bonkers. If they see their favorite cartoon on a random balloon or cereal box, you are forced to hear 5-10 minute monologues about why they should absolutely get the cereal AND a toy. If they see their favorite food, they will pick it up, shove it in your face, and give you yet another monologue about how life itself will cease to go on, unless that food makes its way into the cart.

Even if you successfully squelch the kid's desire for toys and random food, that kid will run, skip, jump and cartwheel down every alley in the store. And with my son, you get an added bonus of learning every time he passes gas--not because you hear or smell it, but because he loudly says to anyone within earshot, "'SCUSE ME I PASSED GAS!' I told him that I admire his honesty, but sometimes, that info needs an inside voice. He agrees with me once, and then the cycle begins again.

So after I endured all of those antics---the type of antics a six year old is supposed to pull by the way--we finally get to the checkout line which of course was long as all get out. We waited in that line for a good 15 minutes, but it was fun, because we told jokes, did dances (I don't know what the dances are called, but I know I saw Donald Glover do them in this video.

But right as the couple in front of me was finished paying for their groceries, my son announced that he had to pee. Now here I am with a cart full of groceries, no wife to watch them for me, 6 people behind me eager to skip my ass and get their groceries paid for and out of the store, and a panicked look on my face. So the first time I heard my son say what he said, I straight ignored him and kept taking my groceries out the cart. So my son saw my neglect and raised me with an even louder, 'scuse-me-I-passed-gas like voice and said, "DADDY I DON'T WANT TO PEE ON MYSELF, CAN WE GO TO THE BATHROOM?"

At this point, if I don't take him to the bathroom, I'm 100% sure that Child Protective Services or ICE (they are interchangeable) would come and get me. So I politely ask the clerk if he can keep ringing me up so I don't lose my space in line, and thankfully he said yes. The people behind start huffing and puffing quietly, but they knew better than to turn the volume up on that sh*t too much because a) there's a kid involved and b) I had the look of death on my face just waiting for someone to say something while I was in the midst of this wife-less week.

Thankfully the bathroom trip was quick and efficient, my groceries were still being rung up by the time we returned, and no one was harmed. Still, the stress of the whole experience made me appreciate those folks who don't have a spouse or partner to returning to them at all. God bless y'all. I hope you keep plenty of bible, alcohol or weed (or all three) within arm's reach at all times. Lord knows you need it.

I mentioned earlier in this blog that Nyles and I have been jamming to Barry White's "Playing Your Game Baby", which means that I also have to play the clean version of Black Moon's "I Gotcha Opin remix" as well. One day, I'll post a video of my son rapping along with Buckshot Shorty while screaming, "DUCK DOWNNNN!":

Friday, June 29, 2018

So my life has turned upside down and inside out during the month of June, which basically neutered the creative writing side of me---which explains why I didn't blog and wrote just one Wizards-related article this month.

First I was laid off on the last day of May, because the contract I was working on was abruptly defunded. Lucky for me, I was re-hired by the same company a few days later, which means I really should not complain---but I will.

The new job is in Falls Church, Virginia, which means I have to ride the train for 35-45 minutes and then take a bus the remainder of the way. I suppose I could drive, but I despise sitting in traffic and paying tolls en route to work. You may be telling yourself, "Hey you big dummy, just a few weeks ago you were unemployed, and now you're bitching and moaning about a lengthy commute to a paying job? Get over yourself!" And if you were bold enough to say or write such things to me, I'd say that you were absolutely right. And then I would counter that by informing you that I have walked to work since 2013, and my walk has never been longer than 10 minutes. So yes, I am spoiled, but you would be too.

In addition to the long commute, I now work for a supreme a$$hole. He's younger than I am, he isn't 100% qualified for the job he does, and he really didn't want to hire me, but he was strongly urged to do so by folks who outranked him and liked me. Justified or not, I've built a bit of a reputation with my company, and that has afforded me the right to get hired days after I was fired. I still don't' feel comfortable thanks to my new boss who does an exemplary job of making me uncomfortable by excessively cursing, not giving me morning salutations and making a big deal out of trivial things that I do.

On the Washington Wizards side of things, I am thisclose to leaving the site I currently work for (Truth About It) in favor of another site (Wiz of Awes). Truth About It has held me down for 8 years, but unfortunately, most of the writers have been struck by the type of life-changing things that cause you to write significantly less. Two people got married, four people moved to New York, some folks got jobs, and after the dust was settled, I was thrust into being a major contributor for the site. That would be golden if I was a single man in my 20s, but I'm married with two kids, and I simply cannot write as often as I'd like. But on Truth About It, if me or one other person didn't write, nothing would be published, which jeopardized my ability to get game credentials. So I'm about to move to another site, which doesn't have as much of a reputation, but I can be a writer and a editor at my leisure...and I can get paid, which ultimately is what I want.

So yeah, the month of June has been wild. I haven't even mentioned the book that I am working on, thanks to my main man Sabin kicking me in the ass once again...

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

I am not a fan of LeBron James the basketball player, because my loyalty to the Washington Wizards precludes that type of traitor activity. But I'm a big fan of LeBron the family man, which is why I am posting this tweet. It made me smile this morning:

Monday, May 07, 2018

First off, I hate trying to write the same day Ta-Nehisi Coates comes out with an article. His writing is so substantive and seemingly effortlessly good...and here I am writing about frivolity. But the show must go on...

This past Saturday my wife was out of town with her girlfriends, which meant my son Nyles and me were left to our own devices. We went to the barbershop, we bought shoes, we had lunch, shared fancy pretzels, went to the playground, and we ended up at a carnival.

Nyles was way too afraid to get on the Ferris wheel, the rollercoaster, or frankly, anything that lifted off the ground. But he was all into the games. First he played a basketball game, then he tossed beanbags into random holes, then he squirted water into holes to advance his horse (I promise this wasn't as perverse as it may be reading), and did a little outdoor fooseball.

The last event of the night was some type of hammer contraption. Nyles had to hammer an object as hard as he possibly could, and the higher his score, the bigger the prize. He swung as hard as he could three times, and finally he earned a prize: A Marvel Superhero Balloon. He had three choices: Spiderman, Batman and Superman.

Nyles has plenty of Spiderman action figures big and small, so I knew that was out of the running. I wanted him to choose Batman because I always regarded him as a dark, mysterious bad ass. The Superman ballon had a cape and he...well he was all white. Now I have nothing against white people or white superheroes, but as I may have alluded to before on this blog, so many of the fictional characters my son sees on TV are white or non-white characters voiced by white people. He may not realize how demoralizing and unfair that is for a little brown boy, but I do, and I don't like it one bit. Whenever I can literally, sprinkle a brown (Fat Albert) or black (Black Panther) cartoon/action figure in his life, I do just that.

But needless to say, my son chose Superman.

So after the carnival, Nyles and I went to the liquor store so Daddy could get some wine, and all these black folks took one look at my son, and another at this Superman balloon with the super white face, and they looked back at me as if say, "Dude what the f**k?". For the remainder of the day, my son was carrying this damn balloon around like Linus carried his blanket, and it was eating away at my insides---but I said nothing to discourage him or his choices.

But at one point, my son was play fighting with this giant balloon in one hand, and the tiny Black Panther action figure in the other, and I literally wanted to maim that damn Superman doll. Luckily for me, a few days have passed and Black Panther is back in the can-I-hold-a-toy-on-the-way-to-school rotation. And today when he got back home from school, he played with both superheroes in harmony. The Black Panther won some fights, as did Superman. Racial equality at its finest.

I think I sound racist in this blog, but I'm not. I just want my son to see people who look like him in cartoon land to offset all the folks who don't.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

First off, I would be honored if you go read about my article about how the Washington Wizards coach isn't anywhere close to losing his job...not yet anyway.

Second, I have a rare follow-up to the last blog entry I wrote regarding my father's judicious use of profanity.

I don't know if I've ever mentioned this on my blog, but my father's girlfriend had an aneurysm last year, and although she survived, she is still a work in progress. She can't talk, she can't use her hands, much of her body is paralyzed and all of this has left my father in the position of being part-time caretaker. His lady is in a facility 24/7, but my father goes by for a couple of hours once a day to check on her, which is quite admirable--for the most part.

Even at the age of 67, my father still has needs which range from primal to just regular companionship and occasional visits to a facility just ain't gonna cut it. He doesn't want to admit this out loud but I hear the loneliness in his voice everyday. I want to tell him to ditch her and the guilt trip that comes with her, but he has to do that at his own pace. So I don't look like an asshole, I suppose I should mention that the doctors have told my father that it is highly unlikely that her condition will improve. Sorry to be depressing but I had to set the scene.

Since his lady entered the hospital, her family has been in and out of town to check on her, and one of the main visitors as you can imagine is her mother (I should also mention that my father's lady is 15 years younger than he is). Prior to her current condition, my father's lady made it her business to minimize the number of times her and my dad met, because she knows how quickly my father can get annoyed. She was also keenly aware at how overbearing and annoying her mother could be.

But now my dad has been forced to deal his lady's mom directly, which has gone just about as well as you could imagine...not too well. She has asked to stay with my dad on a couple of occasions, and my dad says yes the first time and no each and every other time---much to her mother's chagrin.

So a couple days ago, my father mentioned that the mother was coming in town soon, and he was dreading having to engage in small talk with her in and out of the hospital, which led to the following conversation

Me: So when will she be in town
Dad: Some time next week I think
Me: Aren't you going let her stay with me
Dad: Man hell na--I'm sorry, excuse my language
Me: Nah its too late, just say it now
Dad: Let's move on

I can't even begin to describe how big of a smile I had on my face. Ronald Reagan didn't issue a directive to my father to tear down the wall of secrecy that has blocked him from cursing around me, but it is starting to erode organically. I don't want him to start spewing motherf**ker and b**ch, but an occasional ass, f**k, goddamn, and hell would be a welcome addition into our father-son lexicon.

Anyway..thanks for listening.

Thursday, April 05, 2018

My father prides himself on being a very private person. He was like that while I was growing up and that hasn't changed even an iota in my adult life. He didn't tell me he had prostate cancer until his final treatment was done and the cancer was gone. He didn't tell me he was getting re-married until a week before the wedding, then he begged me to be in it. And until I was 35, I never saw him consume alcohol at home or in public--which makes the story I am about tell pretty me at least.

My dad, my Aunt Sharon, my brother and I were in the car on my way to my Aunt Sarah's funeral back in 2001. Sarah was a former White House cook who lived a long life, and died exactly one year after her husband of 60 years passed away. It sounds like a sad story, but considering she got to be with her husband again, there was almost a festive atmosphere surrounding the funeral. She had a damn good run.

So while all of us were in the car and my dad was making everyone listen to the Temptations as usual, he and Sharon were having a conversation in the front seat, and my brother and I were in the back talking about something. My dad would say something that was barely audible and loud ass Sharon would respond in boisterous fashion. My brother and I didn't necessarily want to hear their conversations, but once Sharon opened her mouth, we really had no choice. That was the dynamic in play in the car.

Out of nowhere, Sharon looks at my dad, and says, "Michael you still like to get you a little taste?"

**sidebar** For those of you not familiar with that particular usage of the vernacular, "get you a little taste" for people in my aunt and father's generation is the same as "get your drink on" for younger/current generations. I feel like I shouldn't have to explain that, but at a Christmas party one time, I asked a co-worker of mine if they could "bring me a plate", and instead of bringing back a plate full of food, they literally brought back an empty, white-ass plate--but that was my fault for assuming they were hip to the vernacular. I shall not make that mistake again. **sidebar over**

As SOON as my Aunt asked my father that question, my brother and I shut the hell up and perked up our ears to hear our dad's response. Up to that point, we had not seen him imbibe at all. We had seen beer and wine in and around the fridge, and we'd also seen alcohol in the garbage/recycling bins, but we hadn't actually seen him put mouth to bottle/glass, and it felt very intentional. Now here was his sister asking to him discuss his drinking habits in front of his previously-in-the-dark "children" (I was 26, my brother was 23).

First my father shot my Aunt the look of death, but she had already shifted her glance out of the window after asking the question, so she was oblivious to his quiet outrage. After a long pause he looked at her and said, "Sharon, do we really have to talk about this in front of "them?" Then she made it worse by first saying, "Oh please Michael!", then she looked back at my brother and me and said, "Y'all don't know your Daddy likes to get him a taste every now and then?"

We started to answer, but then we caught our father's scowls in the mirror, and for a minute we hesitated. Then I remembered that was 20 f**king 6 years old and grown enough to speak up (kind of), so I said, "We know but we've never seen it." There was a bit of a pause, and then my dad started laughing, then my aunt started laughing, and after my brother and I were absolutely sure that this laughter wasn't fleeting, we joined in on the laughter too.

After the laughter subsided, they went back to their conversations, my brother and I went back to ours, and that subject never came up again. Ten years later, my brother, my father, my oldest son Carlton and I went out to eat, my dad ordered a red wine we held a mock ceremony to commemorate the embargo being lifted. Now, he drinks freely in front of us, and we join in, like functioning adults.