Bringing suicide out of the shadows and into the light

[Originally published in The Sun Chronicle]

“Love u 2.”

That was the last text message I sent to my mom.

One week later, on Nov. 17, 2010, I found out she had died by suicide.

I held the phone to my ear and heard my uncle saying ridiculous things like “your mother is dead” and “she left bags and notes on the kitchen counter.” I wanted to scream. Instead, I sobbed and pictured myself shattering into pieces.

The weeks and months that followed were a blur, a surreal and exhausting whirlwind of activity that kept me focused on resolving the tangible aspects of my mother’s death: selling her house, her car, her furniture and all of her possessions, meeting with lawyers and bank representatives, filling out forms, canceling credit cards and magazine subscriptions until I had uttered the words “my mother has died” so many times they started to lose their meaning.

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Why Chuck D was right about Hot 97

By now the Chuck D/Hot 97 beef has been well-documented by blogs, and anyone with access to Twitter can see the back-and-forth exchange that’s spanned several days.

Long story short, Chuck D blasted Hot 97 for this year’s Summer Jam show, calling it a “sloppy fiasco” and criticizing the liberal use of the n-word, questioning where Hot 97 would be if the concert had been filled with Anti-Semitic and gay slurs. He wants urban radio to “get it right or be gone.”

Ebro Darden and Peter Rosenberg of Hot 97 responded, and a war of Twitter words ensued.

On the surface this seems like just another social media spat that will be forgotten tomorrow, but in reality it runs much deeper than that. This is not just about a sloppy show or racial slurs. It’s not about Summer Jam or Hot 97 or Ebro and Rosenberg. It’s not about specific hip hop radio stations or specific hip hop concerts. It’s about what all of these things collectively add up to. This is about what “hip hop” has become, and Summer Jam was just the most visible example…continue reading at Rap Rehab.

Web, social media ‘connection’ is a double-edged sword

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[Originally published in The Sun Chronicle]

My mind was wandering the other day and I got to thinking: What did people do before the Internet? And a question I had an even harder time answering: What did I do before the Internet?

I can’t pinpoint the exact moment it became a central part of my life, when I started using my computer for something besides typing papers and playing Oregon Trail, when writing e-mails and visiting Web sites became new methods of procrastination.

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Why Rick Ross won’t answer hard questions

Rick Ross

Anyone who follows me on Twitter probably caught my rant about this earlier today. But I wanted to express my ideas in more coherent and complete form.

Rap journalist Ernest Baker recently published a piece for Noisey called “I Had To Stop Interviewing Rick Ross Because He Can’t Handle Hard Questions.” The title is pretty self-explanatory. During an interview, Baker tried to ask Ross a question touching on the rapper’s rapey lyric from “UOENO.” Ross threw a low-key rap tantrum, dodged the question and shut the interview down, presumably so he could deal with a journalist who wouldn’t reference anything but his greatness.

The experience caused Baker to question the state of rap journalism and conclude that “a superstar rapper’s inability to be real is why rap journalism is a fucked up game”…continue reading at Rap Rehab.

A few thoughts about writer’s block, denial and facing the truth

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As a writer I need to write about all aspects of my life: the good, the bad and the ugly. I need to feel like I can express myself freely. When the writing is good, it doesn’t come from me so much as through me; I’m a vessel through which the words flow and I just try to catch up to the thoughts racing through my mind and get them all on paper.

The writing hasn’t flowed like that for some time. I’ve been blocked. I’ve blocked myself. I’ve deliberately avoided writing about certain aspects of my life — namely, the darker ones — or I’ve written about them infrequently and shared them with almost no one. Partly to spare other people, but mostly to spare myself.

When you reveal certain things about your life, people look at you differently. I don’t want people to look at me differently. I don’t people to be offended. I don’t want sympathy. I don’t want advice or suggestions on how to get over my grief; it’s quite possible that by the time I’ve shared my writing with other people I’ve already gotten over the bulk of my grief. And maybe what I’m most afraid of is total silence, no reaction at all, my words rendered insignificant in a sea of bloggers talking about nail polish, Justin Bieber and Reality TV.

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Nothing left to say

[Written sometime in 2011…]

There comes a time when there’s nothing left to say because you’ve said it all before, nothing left to process because processing won’t change the truth. It’s a truth that wakes you up in the middle of the night, a truth that surprises you when you’re driving and your mind drifts to other topics, and you snap back to reality and remember that reality now includes your mother’s suicide.

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The problem with hip hop journalism

Most hip hop journalists these days fall into two camps, neither of which has much to do with journalism.

The first camp includes press release aggregators and groupie types who act more like publicists than journalists. These writers attend all the right parties, score all the right interviews, blindly co-sign “hot” artists, post new singles as soon as they receive them and act as virtual mouthpieces for record labels, never questioning the direction of the culture or the artists who represent it.

They invite readers to look, listen and click, but not think. When confronted about the ills of hip hop, these “journalists” will make endless excuses in defense of rap and why they aren’t addressing deeper issues in their reporting – and they have to make these excuses, because their livelihood and status depend on rap’s popularity.

On the other end of the spectrum are “cultural tourists” at so-called hipster magazines. These writers know little about hip hop as a culture, have only scant association with the community it springs from and subconsciously gravitate toward ignorant strains of rap because they’re more comfortable with black stereotypes and caricatures than real people…continue reading at

The man sleeping in the grocery store

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It’s 9 o’clock on a Wednesday night, and I’m at the grocery store to get cat food. I walk in and see a display of patio furniture with a man sitting in one of the chairs. He almost looks like part of the display, except for the fact that he’s slumped over with a brown bag in his hand.

He is apparently drunk and probably homeless. I keep walking toward the cat food aisle, but now I’m thinking about him, wondering how long he’s been there and how much longer he’ll stay asleep under that canopy before someone kicks him out.

As it turns out, it’s not long. By the time I get to the checkout line, two female employees — a teenager and a middle-aged woman — have confronted him. “Sir, you can’t be here,” says the middle-aged one. Without a word, he shuffles out of the store, brown bag in hand. I look at them, and they look at each other wordlessly, and then they walk back to wherever they were before.

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Why hip hop needs a voice on Zimmerman verdict

[Originally published in]

Since George Zimmerman’s acquittal for the murder of Trayvon Martin, the reaction within the hip-hop community has ranged from long-winded Twitter rants to total silence.

While rappers like Lupe Fiasco, Immortal Technique and Phonte have been vocal about the verdict and what it says about the value of black life in this society, far too many high-profile stars have said nothing.

Kanye West, for example, positioned himself as a new age revolutionary on Yeezus, but his revolutionary spirit seems to have disappeared since he stepped out of the booth; his last tweet as of this writing was a link to a GQ article about his new creative direction.

Jay-Z recently took to Twitter to connect with fans as a promotional stunt for Magna Carta Holy Grail, but we haven’t heard a peep from him about arguably the most important court decision of our generation.

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