HKR: 04-13-15 Interview w/ Kevin Powell

Click HERE to listen to our Hard Knock Radio interview w/ Kevin Powell

We caught up with long time activist, author and head of BK Nation Kevin Powell. He sat down Hard Knock Radio to weigh in on a number of important topics. We spoke about some of the most recent and disturbing cases of police terrorism and the political, social and economic landscape that has given rise to it..

We spoke at length about the plight of Akai Gurley and the pursuit of justice for him. Powell represented the family of this young father who was gunned down by police as he walked down a darkened staircase in his housing projects. Police claim he was shot by accident. A rookie officer has been charged.

We spoke about the upcoming BK Nation conference scheduled for fall of 2015. We spoke about practical solutions all of us can take to end police violence.

Election Day 2014-Deep East Oakland Mayoral Debate

Deep East Oakland Jean QuanA couple of weeks ago it was pointed out that the 15 people vying for Oakland’s top post as Mayor had done a record number of debates. They had reached into every part of the city except Deep East Oakland. We are talking specifically about the area about 98th Avenue. Its apart of the city that is often bashed upon by the media.

Some folks came together and decided to change things. Rev Mustafa and Rev Harry Williams of Basic Ministries which is located  on a 107th street did what was deamed impossible. They reached out and got all the top candidates to show up.

This is the only time the main candidates running for Mayor of Oakland came to deep East Oakland for a debate.   Participants included contractor Ken Houston, Mayor Jean Quan, civil rights lawyer Dan Siegal, Port Commissioner Bryan Parker, city auditor Courtney Ruby, city council woman Libby Shaaf, city council woman Rebecca Kaplan, community activist and tax preparer Nancy Sidebotham and former Occupy Oakland member Jason ‘Shake’ Anderson..

Deep East Oakland Ken HoustonThe debate got contentious at times, but for the most part audience members got to hear directly from the candidates about issues most important to them and how their often overlooked and often maligned section of the city factors into future plans for Oakland.

The first question asked to the candidates was when was the last time you were in deep East Oakland, what did you do here and who are the people and businesses you work with..

This is part 2 of the Deep East Oakland Debate.. Here folks get to hear how candidates respond to audience questions..

Below is a video of the Deep East Oakland Debate

E;ection 2014Below is our Hard Knock Radio round table discussion with Bay Area activists and journalists. our guest included: Amado Uno of APEN , Melvin Willis of Team Richmond, Tim Redmond of 48 Hills in San Francisco, Maisha Quint of Eastside Arts Alliance, Eric Arnold of Oakland Local and Shamako Noble of Hip Hop Congress.

During our discussion folks spoke to the most heated races around the Bay Area as well as key measures and propositions like Prop 47 and Measure Z in Oakland. everyone spoke to huge the amounts of unchecked corporate money coming into local, often overlooked elections.. There is big time tech money coming into SF elections for supervisors.. You have one or two folks trying to bankroll their personal picks.. You also have big time money coming in from out the state to defeat tenant protection measures..

In Richmond its even more egregious because you have Chevron bankrolling a slate of candidates who will undue any and all progressive moves made by the previous administration. In Richmond, Chevron has dropped 3.2 million dollars.. In SF two tech billionaires have dropped 1.5 million for one supervisors race.

In San Jose Tech money is playing a major role both in Congressional races and the Mayors race..

In the race for school superintendent you have school privatization money pouring in from all over..

In this election folks have better follow the money and look long and hard at the teams a candidate supported in the past.. Many will smile in your face and be all about gentrification and pro development. Others will smile and put all their political capital behind police…Don’t be fooled by skin color or gender..There are some Black and Brown faces who are definitely riding hard for big corporate interests..

Bob Law: History of Black Radio and the Removal of Black Militant Thought

Bob LawOver the past few weeks Hard Knock Radio has been doing a series of interviews focusing on the state of Black media. Such a series would not be complete without getting some critical insight from long time freedom fighter and media justice advocate Bob Law.  He is one of the Godfathers of Black radio and has never wavered in using the airwaves as a tool for liberation.

In our conversation, he gives a serious history lesson not just on the evolution of Black Radio and the role it has long played in the Black Freedom Struggle, but he also talked to us about how there has been an attempt to remove, silence and erase any institutional memory of Black militant and radical thought.  Law painstakingly details how that has been happening and breaks down the reasons why.

Law pinpoints much of this removal with the release of the 1972 Harvard Report, officially known as Study of the Soul Music Environment‘ . This was a white paper commissioned by Columbia Records and done by a group of Harvard Business students on how to take over the Black independent music scene. Clive Davis was the head of Columbia at that time. Law details how that report coincided with other attempts in film and TV to eradicate, marginalize and ridicule strident, politicized Black voice in the music and entertainment industry.

During our discussion, we play an excerpt from a speech given to Black music industry executives by Minister Farrakhan in 1979 who makes note of this change. That speech is contrasted with a speech Martin Luther King gave to a similar body of Black music industry folks in August 1967, where he heaped praise on them and emphasized that there would be no Civil Rights Movement had it not been for Black Radio. The organization he spoke to at that time was called NATRA (National Association of Television and Radio Announcers)

During our interview Law details what took place after King gave that speech. He explained that NATRA was destroyed by white industry executives who were concerned about their growing power and political influence. That destruction and silencing has never stopped.

This interview is a serious history lesson from a pioneering figure who really knows his stuff.

Here’s a couple of things to give more context to Bob Law’s remarks.. First is a video fo from ABC News with former FBI agents talking about studying and destroying Black Culture.

The second is excerpts from that Dr King’s speech given to NATRA juxtaposed with Minister Farrakhan’s speech given 12 years later.

Below is an article Law recently penned called Up Above My Head I Hear Music In The Air. It his take on where Black radio is at right now

 If one should desire to know if a kingdom is well governed, if its morals are good or bad, the quality

of its music will furnish the answer. — Confucius

 Bob LawCurrently the airwaves are filled with messages that are violently anti woman, anti Black and in a real sense anti life itself. We are inundated with lyrics, dialogue, and images, from music videos, song lyrics and DJ comments that glorify violence while encouraging the degradation and exploitation of women, to video games that require that you kill people in order to stay in the game and move forward.

To understand our concern, perhaps it is helpful to understand the emotional significance and influence of music. As noted musician David Byrne has explained, music tells us things, social things, psychological things, physical things about how we feel and perceive our bodies, and it does it in a way that other art forms cannot. It is not only in the lyrics as Byrne and others have pointed out, it is also the combination of sounds, rhythms, and vocal textures that communicate in ways that bypass the reasoning centers of the brain and go straight to our emotions.

Poet Larry Neal, one of the architects of the Black Arts movement of the 1960’s has said that our music has always been the most dominate manifestation of what we are and how we feel. The best of it has always operated at the very core of our lives. It is the music that can affirm our highest possibilities. That may be precisely why the best of our music is under siege.

It is also important to understand that in this society, music conveys social status. Being associated with certain kinds of music can increase your social standing, Consider the higher level of sophistication associated with opera or classical music, or the level of cool sophistication associated with the music of Coltrane, Monk and Miles.

Some have suggested that while we may indeed like the music, often what we really like is the company it puts us in. In this sense the music creates a community or life style that is validated by the acceptance of the music. It is the music that validates the “Gangsta”

Currently the airwaves are dominated by a body of music, images and ideas that has established a code of behavior that denigrates women, and encourages the murdering of Black people. It is a lifestyle where all women are “Hoes” and “B—–s”. Consider this “gangsta” lyric. “I got a shotgun, and heres the plot. Takin Niggas out with a flurry of buckshots . Yeah I was gunnin and then you look, all you see is niggas runin”.

Music, images and dialogue that offers another view cant get reasonable airplay. The airwaves are regulated by the FCC, a commission that was established in 1934 to regulate in the public interest. When George Bush installed Michel Powell as Chairman of the commission, in 2001, Powell said he did not know what in the public interest meant.

Since the 1996 telecommunications act which set the framework for deregulation, the FCC has been reduced to pablum serving only to sanction the acquisition of broadcast frequencies and license to the mega media corporations which has resulted in the concentration of media ownership into the hands of very few.

Under the major revisions of US telecommunications law, the first since the 1930s, members of the general public no longer have “legal standing” to challenge broadcast policy or to insure that the public interest is served. Now it is the licensee (station owner) that controls content.

Previously the station owners rented the airwaves, while the general public owned the airwaves. That is no longer the case. None the less the Federal Communications Commission is still directly responsible to congress, and since Black media ownership is a major casualty of deregulation, and since the diversity of opinion and ideas coming directly from the Black experience in the world are being removed from the marketplace of ideas, we have appealed to the Congressional Black Caucus in general and the New York congressional delegation in particular to urge congress to reexamine the current function and effectiveness of the FCC.

Our first appeal to the CBC was December 6 2012, and in spite of additional attempts to reach members of the CBC, to date congress members, Evette Clark, Gregory Meeks and Hakeem Jeffries have freely dismissed our appeals to them.

Perhaps if there is a link established between the murderous video games and the young white boys who routinely walk onto a school campus or shopping mall with automatic weapons and open fire, congress might then act to reestablish some guidelines that would force broadcasters to allow for input from the community in the effort to balance what is being offered on Americas broadcast spectrum.

But as long as Black people, especially Black women are the primary victims of this insidious violence, even the increasingly irrelevant Black congressional leadership ignores us.

Franz Fannon is correct, “Ultimately a people get the government / leadership they deserve” It is time to support the kind of leadership we truly deserve.

written by Bob Law


Report Backs from the Front lines of Ferguson & LA Over Police Shootings

Ferguson ProtestsDay 9 of the Uprisings in Ferguson. We caught up with Rodstarz and G1 of Rebel Diaz who gave us a sobering front line report bout the police militarization and brutality unfolding in Ferguson, Missouri. The pair spoke about the onslaught of vehicles and the over the top response by police to those protesting the murder of unarmed teenager Michael Brown…

They also gave us insightful context and perspective on things that took into account mass gentrification and media sensationalism that has added to the problems we see playing out before us. They also spoke on the type of anger that is seething in the community and how certain types of people and leaders are being propped up as buffers to trying and repress or redirect the concerns people are expressing

Rodstarz linked up with Michael Brown’s  family and spoke at length about what they are dealing with and what we on the outside who are concerned could and should be doing..

Lastly we talked about the role of mass media and how they have been willing mouthpieces for the police as even as they are being threatened, roughed up, arrested  and confined to so-called Free speech zones. G1 of Rebel Diaz was caught in one of those holding pens.. The two shared the types of lap dog politics many in corporate media have engaged in when reporting this story..

Ezell Ford ProtestsLater we spoke with Ivy Quicho of the organization AF3IRM‬ out of LA who was amongst those who protested in front of LAPD headquarters over the weekend in response to the police shooting unarmed Ezell Ford.. She spoke about the Ford being one who had mental health challenges and how police are ill equipped to deal with the special needs that many in the community have. Their response is systemically overbearing often resulting in fatal results.

Ivy also talked about the larger picture at hand and how reform will not be enough to turn things around..Ivy shares her experience of what has worked in LA with dealing with police militarization

Lastly we speak with Kat of Onyx and the Oscar Grant Movement who details upcoming short and long term actions planned here in the Bay Area. She compared and contrasted what is going on in Ferguson with what we in the Bay Area experienced in the past when dealing with Oscar Grant protests. She talks about the big marches and rallies planned for Wednesday August 20th here in Oakland.

History 101: Black Panthers, Palestinians & The Fight to End Racist Zionism

Former Political prisoner Dhoruba Bin Wahad

Former Political prisoner Dhoruba Bin Wahad

We sat down and spoke w/ former political prisoner, Black Panther (Panther 21) and BLA member Dhoruba Bin Wahad who gave us an incredible in-depth history about the relationship between the Black Panther Party and the Palestinian Liberation Movement.. It’s important history that has been erased in the current conversation as there is a concerted effort by organizations like AIPAC to rewrite history and downplay the militant aspects of the Black Freedom struggles. For example many do not know that there were Palestinian Black Panthers in Palestine. Dhoruba explained that they formed because they felt organizations like the PLO were not militant enough. The breakdown on this is serious history.

Our conversation started off with Dhoruba laying down the history of how Israel formed in the first place and the mass displacement of Palestinian people. He clears up the common misperception of Palestine and Israel being in armed conflict for centuries. Its an excuse given so that people avoid looking at Israel’s human rights violations. It obscures the racist and imperialistic aspects of Zionism which is driving the current conflict. More importantly as Dhoruba points out it takes away from the reality of Israel being a ‘settler state’.

Dhoruba talks about the role colonial powers, in particular Britain and France played in issuing mandates and how they fostered a climate that eventually resulted in the current conflict we see going on now in the Middle East..

Palestinian Black PantherDhoruba detailed how and why the Black Panthers linked up with the Palestinians and the important role that the struggles in Algiers played in bringing folks together. Dhoruba explained his role as one of the liaisons between the Panthers and Palestine’s UN delegation..he also details how J Edgar Hoover and his infamous Cointel-Pro program launched a campaign with a racist name called Operation Hymie where they sent off letters to Jewish organizations asserting the Black Panthers were Nazis and Anti-Semitic. It was an attempt to demonize the Panthers and dampen the relationship and support they had from Jewish folks who did support the Panthers.

We were joined in our conversation by local activist and scholar Danea Martinez who detailed the relationship between Palestine and the Black freedom struggle in South Africa. She gave us an accurate perspective on Nelson Mandela, the ANC (African National Congress) and where and how they intersected with the Palestine struggle. She also gave us perspective on Israel displacing Palestinians in 1948 from their homeland and the formation of Apartheid in South Africa that same year.. Its remarkable and sobering history as she details Zionist Israeli’s long sordid relationship with Apartheid South Africa. Its history that many in power are trying to erase.

Both Danea and Dhoruba talked at length about Arab racism and slavery on the African continent. Dhoruba who lived in Africa for a number of years detailed the racial politics and how they play out both here in the US and abroad. He reminded folks that many of the Arabs we’re  talking about involved in slavery in places like Mali and the Sudan are actually Black. he noted they are ‘Blacker than you and me’ but in appearance but they identify as Arab. He walks us through some of the complexities around this and talks about where and how Anti-Black sentiment emerges within the Arab world. The information he breaks down in this segment is extremely insightful and gives important context to this discussion on Arab racism.

We also talk at length about the impact the cold war had on the liberation struggles in both America amongst Black people and in Palestine. We talk about the role it played in heightening racist Zionism..

We conclude the conversation with a discussion of how Israel’s policies and practices are being exported to US police departments and SWAT teams here in the US.. There is an NYPD office in Tel A Viv and many officers have taken leaves of absence to go fight for Israel’s IDF to hunt down Palestinians. This slaughter has got to stop.

Check out the full Hard Knock Radio Interview below

Update: As we are finishing up this interview we got word that Palestinian futball (soceer) legend Ahed Zaqout  was killed as a result of Israel’s relentless bombings of Gaza. We also got word that 9 members of Dr. Mona El-Farra, of the Middle East Children’s Alliance and the director of Gaza Projects Lost 9 members of her family yesterday.  You can hear her first hand accounts HERE


Phil Agnew and the Dream Defenders are No Joke

Phil AgnewWe recently sat down with Phil Agnew of the Dream Defenders which is an incredible organization based in Florida. They were the first on the scene kicking up dust and doing all that they could do to bring attention to the grave injustice that befell 17-year-old  Trayon Martin who racial profiled and then shot by self-proclaimed neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman.

During our interview, Phil walked us through all the direct action the Dream Defenders executed leading up to the Trayvon Martin saga getting national attention. These activities included blocking the doors to the Standford police station and walking 40 miles over a 3 day period from Stanford Florida to Tallahassee. During the trial and the months leading up to it, very little shine was given to the DD. Instead we saw the faces of traditional Civil Rights leaders and media pundits. Throughout that time, the Dream Defenders kept their nose to the grind, doing the heavy lifting of organizing throughout the state. Their focus was young people in many of the colleges and disenfranchised folks from the community.

Dream Defenders signs After the tumultuous trial, which resulted in George Zimmerman being acquitted, while many pundits and Trayvon Martin experts left Sanford to return home, the Dream Defenders headed to the state capital and staged a 30 day sit in at the governor’s office. As Phil explained, the purpose was not to protest the verdict which they obviously didn’t agree with, but to bring attention to the unfair laws  that led to Martin being shot in the first place.

The issues at hand were racial profiling and Stand Your Ground. The group wanted a meeting with the governor and demanded to have a hearing with the legislature to repeal the law. It was an arduous fight and while they didn’t get all they wanted, the Dream defenders made Stand Your Ground a front and center issue. They also made it known they would be a serious political force to be reckoned with.

Phil explained how the Dream Defenders linked up with the Dreamers who are undocumented youth who had been receiving national attention for the direct action tactics in pushing hard for Immigrant Rights. The groups saw common ground and the importance of forming vibrant Black-Brown coalitions that are savvy enough insidious attempts to divide and conquer.

During our interview Phil talked at length about the Dream Defender’s strategy to take their fight around Stand Your Ground laws to the United Nations. He talks about members going to Geneva and the affirming responses they got..

Dream DefendersThis summer Dream defenders will be participating in the upcoming celebrations of the Freedom Summer of 64 with a promise of the group growing stronger and using their leverage to overcome restrictive voting laws saddling their state.

Its interesting to note that when looking at the political landscape and seeing the array of problems that confront society, many in their frustration often ask, “Where are all the young people?” Many like to hark back at a time when seemingly everyone was politically involved and committed to changing the world. Some like to assert today’s youth are lacking.. The Dream Defenders and folks like Phil Agnew through their actions dispel such notions.

Courts Rule Teaching Tenure is Unconstitutional-Here’s the Real Deal Behind that Fight

Davey-D-brown-frameOn Tuesday a Superior Court here in the state of California issued a landmark ruling declaring teachers who receive tenure is unconstitutional. Immediately afterwards a number of folks jumped on social media and took to the airwaves declaring the ending of teaching tenure as a grand victory and now our children will be saved. A closer look at some of those prominent voices including the Black and Brown ones, showed that they were a small fraction of folks who had aligned themselves with big corporations and neo-liberal factions that want nothing more but to privatize public education.

This wasn’t about saving kids. This was about making money along with pushing a culture of conformity.  Here’s a few undisputable facts about teacher tenure and the court’s ruling along with an insightful interview from one of the nation’s leading educators  Dr Jeff Duncan-Andrade from SF State University.

First, let’s deal with understanding what Cali’s teaching tenure policy was about.  Tenure with teachers does not mean they can’t be fired. It means they can’t be fired at will..One of the main rights workers had eroded thanks to billions spent in corporate lobbying nationally and domestically was to remove worker protections and make it such that an employer can walk up and fire you at will.

Many have bemoaned this fact and have talked about having to go to work and be on eggshells because an unreasonable, tyrannical, over demanding boss can at any moment upend your world by bouncing you. Perhaps from a corporate POV being able to walk up and fire folks is a good thing. It means that when an employee starts to gain seniority which would allow certain types of benefits and pensions to kick in, the employer can simply fire them and replace them with someone younger and cheaper.

The tenure aspect of a teacher was something all of us should have which is ‘due process‘ when it comes to your employment. This means if you as a teacher speak out and politically align yourself with parents and students vs the administration which may have a politically agenda, you can’t be bounced out.

Banned BooksIf we have forward thinking teachers who find that its best to teach students about Malcolm X, Cesar Chavez , the I Hotel Strikes or engage them in discussions about current events and relate that to the curriculum, should they be bounced because some out of touch or biased administrator feels lessons on Malcolm or Chicano Culture are irrelevant? This is what went down in Tuscon, Arizona around its Chicano Studies program. Reactionary forces came in let teachers go, passed a law to shut down ethnic studies because some saw it threatening to the American way of life and banned a ton of books including Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Friere from being in the classroom..Is this what we are advocating?? Is this our solution?

The way this current fight around teacher tenure has been depicted in the news courtesy of those pushing for public education to be privatized, is to say there are old, white, insensitive, under performing teachers who been around for years, who got tenure and were dumped into inner city schools where they are culturally ill-equipped, uncaring and the main reason why we have in 50-60% drop out rates. Popular movies like ‘Waiting for Superman‘ further fueled that narrative as its school privatizers made the face of teacher’s unions become that above described ineffective teacher.

According to the lawsuit where they had ‘expert witnesses’ and bevy of studies to reference, under performing teachers make less than 3% of the total Cali teacher workforce.. In actual numbers, there are close to 300k active California public school teachers, out of that we are talking about 2k-8k at most who aren’t making the grade..This is for the entire state and when you add up the numbers there’s no way this handful of teachers has upended the largest public school system in the country. You can look at what the court was taking into consideration–>  HERE

What we need to be asking is what administrator decided to come along and place under performing teachers in inner city schools? This is akin to sending bad, brutalizing cops to inner city neighborhoods and then playing dumb when folks complain about rampant abuse.

Oakland Parents fighting to keep local schools from being privatized

Oakland Parents fighting to keep local schools from being closed and eventually privatized

We need to be asking how many of these teachers did they assign and what was the rationale? What administrator looked at school in deep East Oakland and said; “Golly gee this school is having challenges, why don’t I look at my list of teachers and send them all the bad ones“.. .If the percentage of bad teachers statewide is 1-3% then we need to ask who made the decision to fill a school up with  under performing teachers that far exceed that 1-3%?? Was it the principal? School chancellor? School board?? Who?

Whats been implied over the years is that the teacher’s union insisted that under performing teachers go to inner city schools and miseducate our kids? During our interview with Dr Andrade, he astutely noted, many teachers walk into schools that are purposely and severely under funded, over crowded and disproportionately impacted by a number of outside systemic problems that hinder learning. Teachers who speak out about that often find themselves under fire with some being labeled as under performing.

Dr Jeff Duncan Andrade

Dr Jeff Duncan Andrade

Andrade went on to talk about the high turn over rates in some of these schools where frustrated teachers simply leave resulting in many schools being unstable. He also raised the question as to where school districts will be getting all these ‘good teachers’ in particular teachers of color who are set and ready to flood these inner city schools and take them to the next level? He talked about current recruitment practice which he described as lacking and in many cases non existent.

Whats likely to happen is many of our schools will be flooded with teachers coming from outfits like Teach For America which has come under fire for sending college recruits, giving them 5 weeks of training and sending them to the most needy schools? Many have been accused of not being committed to these kids but instead using TFA as a stepping stone to jump start a career and to pay off student loans.  Is that the solution for our kids? If you don’t know about TFA read about them HERE and ask is this the solution folks are supporting?

The other question we should asking is who is David Welch, the billionaire venture capitalist with no background in education who funded the court fight to end teaching tenure? Who is aligned with? Last I checked he squarely in lock step with school privatizers. What’s his track record for work in our communities? With all his money how has he been investing? Is his involvement similar to the Koch Brothers donating money to the United Negro College Fund? Read about Welch HERE and ask is this who folks are supporting?

Yesterday on Hard Knock Radio – 94.1 at 4pm we discussed at length the ruling that took place.. We have as our guest long time Oakland based educator Jeff Duncan-Andrade whose been in the front line trenches for over 21 years who is also nationally recognized for his work in education.. Check him out HERE  and read about him HERE

check out our interview below..

Our Intv w/ Danyel Smith & Elliott Wilson about the State of Hip Hop Journalism & HRD CVR

Danyel Smith and Elliot WilsonDanyel Smith and Elliot Wilson are two individuals whose names have to be mentioned when you talk about Hip Hop journalism. The husband and wife team have been at it for a minute and have covered a lot of ground.

Danyel, a former classmate at UC Berkeley and a long time fixture in her native Oakland here in the Bay Area, cut her teeth as a writer for the SF Bay Guardian and the Eastbay Express. She later went on to make noise as a music editor for SF Weekly. There she kept her finger on the pulse as she played a key role in shining important lights on local artists.

She would later to go on to knock down doors as she became editors at Vibe Magazine on two separate occasions and at Time Magazine. She also relocated from the Bay Area to Brooklyn. the past few months Danyel has been making the rounds back here in the Bay thanks to her being named a John S. Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford. 

Her husband Elliot Wilson is powerhouse in his own right.. Most people know him as the former editor of XXL Magazine where he penned popular and often controversial and bodacious columns under the name Yellow N–. Currently heads up the website Rap Radar and does the widely listened to CRWN interview series.

Prior to that Wilson cut his teeth as music editor for Beat Down magazine. later he made noise as being part of the famed Ego Trip squad, where they had a magazine bearing their name . As a member of that crew he co authored two books Book of Rap Lists and Big Book of Racism

We caught up with both Danyel and Elliot the other day and spoke to them about their humble beginnings and the  current state of Hip Hop journalism and where it intersects with journalism in general. We spoke at length about  and how much things have evolved and in some cases devolved over the years and how to turn things around and move this profession to the next level.

Danyel noted that there’s a lot we in Hip Hop can learn from traditional journalism but at the same time there has been a lot that has been picked up from Hip Hop and reflected in the mainstream.

danyel Smith and Elliot WilsonWe talked to them about the adjustments magazines and newspapers had to make in the digital age and what its been like for them to be married and at times run competing publications. Elliot noted that when Danyel was editor at Vibe and he was editor at XXL, they had to establish ground rules in the home to make sure work didn’t spill over into their marriage. Both seemed to have a good sense of humor about it..We also talked about their personal journeys, triumphs and challenges over the years in this often times hectic industry.

Lastly we talked to the pair about their new venture HRD CVR.. Believe it or not in the almost 10 years they have been married, the two have never worked with each other on a project until now. This new project is a hard covered magazine that will come out 3 to 4 times year that’s designed to be aesthetically pleasing, high-end in its design, cutting edge in its content and change the soul of journalism.

The pair sees a need to tap into market that is being underserved in terms of its diversity..Far too often readers/ listeners are pigeon-holed into simplistic categories that do very little to reflect our collective complexities. As was noted in their press release, In their press release they note

We believe one can adore DJ Snake and Cloud Nothings and Gerardo Ortiz and NIcki Minaj and still want to get deep into how things are moving at the protests in Venezuela, want to know who the humans are behind the net neutrality battles, want to prep for the 2016 elections.

Below is our insightful Hard Knock Radio conversation with Danyel and Elliot. You can get more info on HRD CVR by clicking HERE

Our Tribute to Yuri Kochiyama-Human Rights Activist & Freedom Fighter Who Never Wavered

Yuri KochiyamaOver the weekend we lost another Freedom Fighter, Yuri Kochiyama… I hope folks take time out to know she was more than ‘just the small Asian Woman‘ who cradled Malcolm X when he was assassinated that dreadful day in February 1965 at the Audubon Ballroom. For starters we should know about her political work in Harlem on school integration and the Freedom school she and her husband Bill helped established with the Harlem Parents Committee. We should know how she and Malcolm X came to be close friends and she joined his Organization for Afro-American Unity ..She wasn’t just some lady who happened to be there in the audience. She was someone who was down for the cause.

We should know about Yuri’s political work before and after Malcolm’s death ranging from her fighting to get reparations for Japanese Americans, fighting for Puerto Rican Independence, fighting to end nuclear weapons and of course the fight to free and get rights for political prisoners. The plight of Political Prisoners was near and dear to Yuri because she, along with her family and thousands of other Japanese-Americans were political prisoners after they were rounded up and sent to internment camps. Her father was one of the first to be sent away and died as a result. The camp she was sent to was  Camp Jerome in Arkansas.

For many Yuri Kochiyama was a major figure who radicalized people’s thinking and political outlook. She was an inspirational woman who touched many in particular, many progressive minded Hip Hop generation Asian activists who saw as a mother figure. She was someone who we would see at all the key rallies and demonstrations  who was accessible and mentored many.  If you ever met and spoke with her, you could see she spit more wisdom about civil rights and social justice than most have stood on podiums demanding hefty fees. Yuri was uncompromising and unwavering in her fight to end oppression.. Honor her by learning about her work and building off the foundation she laid down.. She will be missed RIP Yuri Kochiyama

Below is our Hard Knock Radio Show Tribute that features community elder,  former Black Panther and fellow Human Rights activist Sister Kiilu Nysha. Here Sister Kiilu talks about her close friendship with Yuri and what lessons all of us should learn from her. We also replay an important 2008 interview Kiilu did with Yuri about her friendship and work she did with Malcolm X..

Omar Akbar aka Labtekwon: Swinging Swords & Fighting Off the Gentrification of Hip Hop

LabtekwonOne thing about Hip Hop, if you limit yourself to what is presented via commercial outlets you will undoubtedly short-change yourself and miss out on a lot of stellar artists doing some great and innovative work. Please note the emphasis is on the word ‘art’. Its one of facet that Omar Akbar, aka Labtekwon, long time emcee, scholar and cultural analyst from Baltimore has always pointed out. The jewels of a cultural are not limited to one or two media outlets or individuals that may narrowly define or totally mis-define a culture and its people.

We sat down with Omar for an insightful interview focusing on both his long tenure in Hip Hop and how he has evolved himself and his craft over the years.  For those who don’t know he’s 40 albums deep and celebrating his 20th anniversary producing and recording music. Yes you read that right he’s 40 albums deep in the game and has for most part has kept it independent. He noted its important to keep growing and not be caught in a time matrix of the Golden Era which he claims far too many are stuck in.

So will Labtekwon show up on the Billboard charts or at the next BET Awards show? Probably not, but step into the City of Baltimore and they know his name well. He’s a fixture in the city and his music and overall vibe that reflects its long and rich music history and traditions.

During the first portion of our Hard Knock Radio interview, Labtekwon kicks down a lot of important info on the make up ‘Charm City’. He talks at length about the popular HBO TV series The Wire and dispels many of the myths surrounding the show. He details how the series was both a blessing and a curse in terms of how people perceive the city. He cautions there’s a lot about Baltimore that folks need to absolutely get straight or risk finding one seriously getting played.

We talk about Baltimore being one of the first deejay/ club cities in the country, predating Hip Hop.  Omar runs down the economic and cultural forces that were in play that led to Baltimore being a deejay oriented city that highlighted dance while neighboring DC became a place that highlighted bands and gave birth to Go-Go.

If a city could have a set of personalities attached to them, in our interview Omar compares and contrasts the mindset of many who reside in B-More and DC. Serious history lessons were given on this topic.

Jean-Michel Basquiat

Jean-Michel Basquiat

We talked about the recent trilogy of albums Omar released including; NEXT: Baltimore Basquiat and the Future Shock (State of the Art-Part 1)which pays tribute to the late artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. Omar details the importance of Basquiat and his contributions to art which are often overlooked. He talks about how Basquiat was a major influence on his life and work. He talks about the strong influence Basqiat had on Hip Hop.

We talked about the second album in the trilogy called;  Hardcore: Labtekwon and the Righteous Indignation-Rootzilla vs Masta Akbar. Omar describes it as an album that pays tribute, refines and is the Apex to what many call ‘Knowledge Rap’..Here Omar talks about how he was greatly influenced by KRS-One and the Last Poets and that each song could be an academic thesis. He deals with complex topics like the monetary system, the construction of race, population control and the origins of Christianity to name a few.

It was an exhaustive undertaking he noted that took more than 4 months to gather up the material. Next he had to lay out the information, put it in rhyme form and make sure what was said was on point. The songs may remind people of Ras Kass‘ epic piece ‘Nature of the Threat‘.

The album was accompanied by a book that lays out in details his primary sources so that folks listening  can check out what he was saying. The goal was not for people to simply regurgitate what he was saying, but to learn and then hopefully build upon what he laid out.

His latest album Evolutionary: The Omar Akbar Album/State of the Art rounds off the trilogy. Its more reflective and lays out some of the possible, new creative directions for Hip Hop to ascend.

LabtekwonIn part 2 of our interview with Omar Akbar aka Labtekwon, we cover a lot of ground. We specifically focus on the power of culture and how there are constant attempts to undermine, co-opt, rename and exploit it.

He speaks about the failure of elders to safeguard culture and how that can be corrected. Omar noted that its extremely important that we invest in our community and uplift our culture.He described what is currently going on cultural gentrification with Hip Hop being a tool to uphold capitalism. He details how that is happening and what responsibility those of who who claim Hip Hop need to embrace in order to stop it..

Labtekwon spoke at length about Hip Hop in the Academy and how we are seeing the unfolding of an Academic Industrial Complex which is doing a disservice to the culture because many are not doing the work to employ specific types of rigorous methodology that would ensure Hip Hop has the solid grounding in the academy that it deserves.  Lab noted that needs to be challenged and he’s one to do it. He describes himself as a swordsman who has mastered his skills and is ready to do battle kn the academy and on the stage to protect the soul of Hip Hop