Sunspot Jonz of Living Legends Speaks About New Film ‘Isis Dynasty’

Sunspot Jonz

Sunspot Jonz

We got a chance to catch up with Sunspot Jonz of Mystic Journeymen and front man for Living Legends to talk about his latest venture. Many have long know Jonz as a dope emcee who has put out countless albums and helped personify what it means to be an independent and corporate free within the music arena.

Not too many, know Sunspot for his work in education and his work as an accomplished film maker.  He had long been writing screenplays and had attracted quite a bit of interest for some of his projects. He also was behind the cameras for the Living Legends video ‘Now You Know’ . He also did a short called ‘Resin‘. and a documentary about the Living Legends called ‘Street Legendz‘. He also did a film called ‘Dreamweaver‘ which has yet to be released

Sunspot’s love of film was one of the factors that led to him leaving his native East Oakland for LA. The goal was to bust down the doors to Hollywood. In our recent interview he explained that unfortunately, many of the stereotypes and pitfalls that we’ve heard about La La Land  manifested themselves, which led him employing the DIY ethos that made him successful within music.

This new film Isis Dynasty is the product of a film company called CorFat he founded with co-director Fatima Washington in 2010. It’s about the challenges facing a young woman who has 30 days to make it in Hollywood . If features some well-known actors like; Faizon Love (Couples Retreat, Friday, Who’s Your Caddy), Golden Brooks (Girlfriends, Beauty Shop) and Paula Jai Parker (Hustle & Flow, She Hate Me, Friday). Jonz will also be starring in the film, putting his acting chops to the test…

Below is our Hard Knock Radio Interview with Sunspot Jonz

Click the link below to download or Listen

Click link below to download or Listen

Hip Hop History: Remembering the Historic 2001 Hip Hop Summit & Farrakhan’s Incredible Speech

2001 Hip Hop SummitAs we celebrate Hip Hop History Month and the 40th anniversary of the Universal Zulu Nation we wanted to take a look back and recall a historic event that has been written out of many Hip Hop history books.. It was the 2001 Hip Hop Summit in New York City. It was the first of its kind and came on the heels of  many in the Hip Hop generation being woken up in the aftermath of the 2000 election where the Presidency was stolen from Al Gore and given to George Bush via the Supreme Court.  That’s how many were feeling at that time and still feel to this day…

That sentiment was coupled with a heighten political awareness in New York,  tyrannical reign of Mayor Rudy Giuliani who had his police running around hemming people up if they stood more than 2 or 3 in group.. This was before Stop and Frisk. He had a street crimes unit that would have police walking around and arbitrarily stopping people , searching for weapons. This led to the shooting death of  Amadou Diallo in February of 1999 on Wheeler Avenue in the Bronx, the borough where Hip Hop was born. He was shot 41 times  by cops who ‘mistook his wallet’ for a gun. A year later those cops would be acquitted with the main urban station Hot 97, not even announcing it on the air..

All this and a slew of other incidents led to many within the Hip Hop generation pushing and demanding change. So in short, the time was right for the gathering that took place that day…Just about everyone in the Hip Hop/ Music industry was there. We are talking executives from MTV and BET.  Major record label heads were present.

A lot of Hip Hop journalists and writers were in there. All the major networks were there with their cameras and reports on hand..  Hip Hop pioneers and the biggest artists of the day from Dame Dash to Jermaine Dupri, Sean Puffy Combs, Master P, Wyclef  packed the place..Quite a few members of Congress including Cynthia McKinney was there to address the audience.

Minister Farrakhan addressed that body and gave what he described as the best speech of his life.. It was incredible and inspiring. It held artists feet to the fire and it held executives feet to the fire. It left everyone fired up. Quite a few came out of that gathering determined to make the necessary changes that were called for that day and they would go on to do bigger and better things. Others remained locked into a world of coonery and you have to wonder why since they were present and expressed appreciation for what took place that day..

Below is a recap of the speech and gathering written by Cedric Muhammad of Black Electorate a few days after the event.. I included some of the audio I gathered which I think you will find useful.. My only regret was not recording Minister Farrakhan’s speech.. I was under the impression that it would be immediately released.. Word was it was going to be released via Def jam.. That never happened and I never got the full story as to why.. What he said that day still applies to our current situation, if not more..

-Davey D-


Cedric Muhammad

Cedric Muhammad

On June 13th before a packed audience in the Mercury Ballroom of the New York Hilton Hotel, filled with some of the Hip Hop industry’s most prominent artists, producers and executives, Nation Of Islam Leader Minister Louis Farrakhan delivered the keynote address at the recent Hip Hop Summit organized by Russell Simmons, co-founder of Def Jam Records. In a nearly 3-hour address, the Minister simultaneously defended, encouraged, criticized and praised Hip- Hop artists, challenging them to take responsibility for their position as leaders of the world’s youth.

The Minister, who entered the ballroom to a standing ovation, began his remarks by speaking directly to the artists who were primarily seated in the front rows of the audience. Looking directly at such artists as L.L. Cool J., Talib Kweli, Keith Murray, Sean “Puffy” Combs, Crazy Legs, Damian Dash, Sister Souljah, Ja Rule, Afrika Bambatta, Redman, Luther “Luke” Campbell, Wyclef Jean, Fat Joe, Grandmaster Flash, Krazy Bone, D.J. Premier, Kurtis Blow, Eric B, U-God and many others, the Minister stated, “each of us is brought here with a purpose”.

2001 Hip Hop summit FarrakhanHe told the artists that part of their greatness rest in the fact that each of them, through the identification, development and cultivation of their talent had “discovered their reason for being”. Still directing his comments specifically to the artists in the audience, the Minister added, “Maybe you are not aware of it but you have been chosen to lead”.

On a dais with Queen Latifah, Chuck D., Haqq Islam, Jermaine Dupri, and others, Minister Farrakhan told the artists that because he was a spiritual leader he could inform them of “who you are and why you are called”, according to holy scripture, in both the Bible and Holy Quran. He began by quoting from the book of John, Chapter 1.

He quoted, in unison with some in the audience, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God”

The Minister then stated that in the historic evolution of culture and art, that the world has reached the point, through Hip-Hop, where the spoken word is dominating culture.

2001 Hip Hop Summit BamHe then began to provide his exegesis of those verses in John, explaining that “the word was god” and that god represents “force and power”. He remarked of the Hip-Hop community, “there is strength in this community but what it needs is guidance”.

The Minister then expressed that the Hip-Hop community and industry should be concerned with what stage of its evolution it had reached. He told the audience that they have to keep growing their art form. And he punctuated his point by stating that Hip-Hop, like reggae, calypso, gospel and rhythm and blues are all different today than when they began.

The Minister then began his defense of Hip-Hop artists who have come under fire for their lyrical content saying, “Society wants lyrics cleaned up but it (society) doesn’t want to clean itself up.” The Minister said that the most negative aspects of Hip Hop lyrics only reflect the mind and heart of community leadership and aspects of a gangster U.S. government. He added that Hip Hop lyrics were bringing out in public, the private aspects of people’s reality. He said, Gangster lyrics are only showing aspects of “a government that is gangster.” The Minister said that when rappers talk about killing people, they are no different than those in government who have assassinated leaders of other countries. He also said that when artists speak of drug abuse, they are speaking of a behavior, in the open, that has taken place even in the White House.

Hip Hop SummitWhat society wants to do with Hip Hop and young people is “break the mirror, rather than look in it and clean itself up.” The Minister concluded that part of his defense by stating: “If society cleaned itself up, rappers would have to talk about something else.”

The Minister then began part of his challenge to the Hip-Hop artists. He began by speaking of the female womb, telling the audience that the Holy Qur’an advises that we “reverence the womb that bore us”.

The Minister followed that beginning by saying that “the human brain is also a womb”.

He stated, “A man is what he eats, but what about the mind?” He answered his own question by saying, “Jesus said that “as a man thinketh, so he is”. He added that those who feed the mind shape the actions of others.

2001 Hip Hop summit The Minister said that the media was present at the summit because they knew that it was a world-shaking event. Because” all over the world the youth are being led by you”, he told the artists. He then asked , ” In Congress they want to pass a law to disturb your right to free speech. Why hasn’t the government stopped Hollywood? Why now pick on Eminem? Why now pick on you?”

The Minister then stated, “It’s not the lyrics, (they are concerned about). It is that you have taken away the children from their mothers and fathers.” And he added, that “every government has used young people to fight its wars”, making the point that Hip-Hop was actually interfering with the protocol of the world and the power of parents and government to control the masses of the world’s youth.

The Minister then spoke of how governments have always been interested in controlling the youth – desiring that they be able to be called upon to fight in wars. He then spoke of how in countries all over the world, in Africa and Europe, 10 and 11-year olds and teen agers were being taught how to make bombs and fight in war. But he added that all of the youth that are fighting and killing are unaware as to why they are doing such. He emphasized that the courage of young people was used to benefit others while they (the youth) were kept ignorant as to who and what purpose they were serving in fighting the war.

The Minister then added that the government was frightened because the U.S. was poised to go to war but has to deal with who controls the minds of the youth.

2001 Hip Hop summit back roomSensing that Hip-Hop has taken away the minds of the youth, the Minister argued that now some in government and society are asking the question, “How do we get our children back?”

The answer, the Minister explained, depended upon the destruction of Hip Hop beginning with its most prominent artists.

The Minister then articulated how much of the feuding and civil wars in Hip-Hop between prominent artists was orchestrated by the media and that the artists themselves, played right into the plan by making records that “dissed” other artists. But the Minister added that the conflict never remains between the two principals. Because Hip-Hop artists have fans and followers, their disagreements with each other result in groups of young people being opposed to one another.

And because of this fact the Minister challenged the artists “to accept responsibility that you have never accepted”, as leaders.

The Minister then spoke of the responsibility and consequences of words.

He said that America is a great country and unique in the world because “freedom of speech in the U.S. constitution is a guarantor” that wrong will be pointed out in society.

2001 Hip Hop SummitThe Minister then explained that part of the power in Hip-Hop is that the words are accompanied by music saying, “the beat in the song literally drives the word in.” The Minister then advised the artists that they should learn from his example.The Minister stated that he understands why artists feel they can not compromise the right to say whatever they feel but he cautioned that they should be aware of the consequences of their words.The Minister told the artists, that they should “learn the skill of words and how to use them in a way that gains universal respect…I have learned through years of pain that I can say things and say it in a way that doesn’t trigger a certain response”.

The Minister told the audience that Hip-Hop has brought Black and White together in a way that is frightening to some in power. He also spoke of Hip-Hop’s global implications, saying, “Rap has brought the children of the world to you: what will you do with your leadership?”

Minister Farrakhan told the artists that they were actually raising the world’s children – in the U.S., Iran, and China. And he stressed that because the church, mosque and school had failed, the children were in the street being raised by Hip-Hop and their peers.

The 68-year old Muslim leader said that Hip-Hop was actually in the middle of the transition of two worlds and that such a position required responsibility on the part of rappers. He said, “The freedom of speech is one thing but freedom is not license…carelessness is the right attitude to break from the old but not the right attitude to come into the new”

2001 Hip Hop summitBut the Minister, again, stressed that he was not there to rebuke young people and that he was following the example set by Jesus to “suffer the children…”

His comments were directed at some of the civil right sleaders who were present in the audience as well as those who were not present but who had dedicated a tremendous amount of energy to condemning Hip Hop.

The Minister said, “Children don’t need rebuke but to be shown the way to perfect what they are doing.”

The Minister then spoke of the account in the Bible and Holy Qur’an where the elders and magicians – the older leaders of the Children of Israel – actually helped Pharoah in his plan to spare the females of the Children of Israel while killing the male babies. He warned the older leaders that God did not bring but two “older” members of the Children of Israel into the promised land, with everyone else being twenty years old or younger.

2001 Hip Hop SummitThe Minister then returned his focus to the artists present, telling them that their fearlessness and courage is being used by the enemy to get them and their “followers” to kill one another.

He pointedly told the rappers that their association with weapons was counterproductive, and not the real source of their popularity. “Guns didn’t get you your power in China, Iran or Egypt, it was the word”, he said.

The Minister then turned his attention to the media and said that he knew that they were really there to see what he was going to do with his access to the Hip-Hop community. He commented that he knew that they were frightened by the relationship between he and the Hip-Hop community, recognizing its potential.

Speaking as if he were a reporter, he said, they want to know ” What is Farrakhan going to tell them?”

The Minister answered by saying that he had the following to tell the Hip Hop artists:

“I believe that you can change the reality of American life and racism – that you have the power to stop it.”

“I believe that 18-30 is the age group not registered to vote”

“I believe that wars can’t be prosecuted without the youth.”

2001 Hip Hop Summit He then asked the rappers, “Will you accept your responsibility as a leader of the youth?”

The Minister, still speaking to the artists said, “You have to digest a newspaper. Current events are what rap artists have to rap on. So here are some current events I want you to rap on…”

The Minister then turned the ballroom into a classroom and for the next 15 minutes verbally traveled the globe telling rappers what subjects he thinks they should focus on and weave into the creative works.

He began by advising them of the fulfillment of the vision of Nasser and Nkrumah through the OAU’s efforts to establish the “United States of Africa”.

He then spoke of how rap artists should speak on the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians asking the audience, “What do you have to say about that? Are you ready to be a peacemaker?”

He then added, “Look at Black and Brown and how we are being pitted together (through the census and politics) and in prisons, we are against each other, being made to believe that we are enemies when we are natural allies. Can you rap about that?”

He then asked them, “What about DCFS snatching Black and Brown children sending them off away from their families… and where they end up going off to prison later?”

2001 Hip Hop Summit The Minister then asked the rappers of what they had to say about the drug trade being facilitated by a government that has satellites so powerful that they can see a grapefruit on the ground but can’t see whole convoys of drugs being brought into America and into the innercities.

He then asked them, “What do you have to say about the abuse of women?”

The Minister then told them that they should be aware of the fact that, “where there are no decent women, there are no decent men and women are the mothers of civilization”. He challenged them to influence society so that young boys and men will end up “admiring women instead of defiling them.”

Minister Farrakhan then went into a tactful but graphic elucidation of how the slang and cursing that many Hip-Hop artists have popularized is a reflection of the real condition of Black people, in its most negative sense.

The explanation he provided caused the entire audience to erupt in applause at various points.

2001 Hip Hop SummitHe began by saying that the curse word phrase with the initials “M.F.”, though depicting a filthy concept, accurately reflects the fact that many men have not fully grown up and have not accepted their responsibility. He said that is why men call women “ma” – a phrase that is very popular among rappers today. The result, at times, is that many men look to their girlfriends and wives as they looked to their mothers. And so women are forced to finish the raising of their boyfriends and husbands. The end result, the Minister said, for men, is that ” You are having sex with your other mother”. He told the women present that some men ” are looking for someone to finish the nurturing process”

The Minister then gently spoke of the hypocrisy of many who claim God at award shows and then join Satan in their musical creativity.

He then worked to prove his point by referring to Genesis Chapters 1 and 5 and Psalms 82 which clearly indicate that human beings are in the image and likeness of God and are, themselves, gods.

Minister Farrakhan then jumped back into Hip-Hip lingo, speaking of how rappers and youth greet one another with the phrase, “What’s up dog?” The Minister asked the question, “Why not what’s up god?” The Minister answered his own question, by saying, “Because a god will force you to respect god”. Several rappers, who are members of the 5% Nation of Islam and do in fact refer to one another as “god”, in the spirit of Psalms 82, literally jumped out of their seats when the Minister made that remark.

2001 Hip Hop SummitBut the largest applause were reserved for the Minister’s explanation of why artists use the word “bitch” in reference to women. The Minister said, “If ‘god’ has now become ‘dog’ then the woman has become a ‘bitch’. If you came from a ‘bitch’, then you are the son of a bitch”

The Minister followed that up by telling the rap artists that they don’t realize the devastating power of their words and that calling a woman a “bitch” denigrates their own mothers, grandmothers and aunts.

The Minister then skillfully used the 34th chapter of the book of Ezekiel to encourage the rappers, intellectuals and civil rights leaders present to consider themselves as shepherds and the consequences that they will face if they do not feed their flocks after they themselves have been fed by the flocks. The Minister said, that among other things, these verses were referring to people being fed the word of God. The Minister encouraged the artists, in particular, to use their words to grow the people up into the mind of God and into the fulfillment of their gifts.

The Minister then told the artists that they were obligated to do this and had in fact been fed and supported by their fans and followers. He told them that they have cars, private jets, jewelry and they have been able to move out of the projects where they grew up because the “little people gave it to you. You are their leaders…what are you going to do to show your appreciation?”

He then told them of the greatness of their power to transform human life. He spoke of his own experience with the most downtrodden of human beings, and the power of the word on human beings. He told the audience that his teacher, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, taught that light ravels from the sun to the earth at the rate of 186,000 miles per second and that it takes 500 seconds or 8 minutes and 20 seconds to strike the earth. He said blood travels from the heel of the human being to the head and back to the heel in 500 seconds. He said that the word of God is like light and when it enters into the heart of the human being, it causes a transformation. He said that the Honorable Elijah Muhammad taught him that within 500 seconds of delivering inspiration through words, just under ten minutes, the human being will begin to perk up.

2001 Hip Hop summitThe Minister related this teaching to his experience in speaking to prisoners on death row.

He gave an account of a recent trip that he took to a prison where he asked to speak to those who were scheduled to receive the death penalty. The Minister was taken to that section of the jail but was told that he would have to speak to them through the bars. The Minister refused and said that there was no way that he would speak to them through bars. He told the audience that he was warned not to enter this part of the prison and that his safety could not be guaranteed by the prison guards, if he went into that part of the jail and spoke to them after they had been let outside of their jail cells. The guard told Minister Farrakhan that if the Minister insisted on speaking to the death row inmates that he would come with him. The Minister told him that he did not need his protection. The audience laughed when the Minister relayed how the prison guard agreed to let the Minister go by himself and then told him that he would be nearby if the Minister needed him. Minister Farrakhan told the audience that he told the guard that that he wasn’t needed.

The Minister explained that he asked the men to get chairs and form a circle with him. They did. He said that there were 17 altogether – 14 Blacks, 2 Brown and 1 White death row inmate. The Minister said that within 10 minutes their countenance had totally changed, they were relaxed, smiling and that one of the inmates asked Minister Farrakhan if he could read him a poem that he had written. The Minister said that of course he welcomed such and the prisoner read his poem to Minister Farrakhan. The Minister said that the poem was one of the most beautiful he had heard.

After 10 minutes, the Minister said that he called the guard over to look at the group and asked him what did he see. Minster Farrakhan was making the point to the prison guard that buried deep in even these men was great beauty and warmth.

He then added that some of the most powerful and intelligent Black men are in prisons and some of the most powerful women on earth, right now, are prostitutes.

The Minister then, after recounting this story, stressed to the rappers that they have the power to transform human beings with their mouths. He told them that they are in the “word business” and that they have a loyalty and allegiance from their fans that is staggering. He said, “They dress like you, they walk like you, they talk like you, they even bling-bling like you.” Of course, the audience cracked up with laughter at the Minister’s reference to the obsession that some have with jewelry – the so-called “bling-bling” phenomenon.

The Minister then told the Hip-Hop artists, “I love you, but I am not satisfied. We can do better. I am here to encourage you to do better.” The Minister told them that he was not asking for” a radical change, but speak to the issues that enlighten”

He then challenged the rappers, again, to see if they could contribute, through their lyrics to a peaceful resolution to the race problem in America and the conflict in the Middle East. He told the audience that all conflict can be solved and he then spoke of the public disagreement between Russell Simmons and Conrad Muhammad. The Minister said that Conrad Muhammad loves his people and that he knows this because he (Conrad Muhammad) was a former student of his. But he stated that he did not think that it was appropriate that Mr. Muhammad had taken his disagreement with Russell Simmons before the media, which does not support either man or Hip Hop.

Minister Farrakhan then urged Russell Simmons and Conrad Muhammad to come together. He then added that he hoped that Conrad Muhammad, who he believed was not present, would get the tape of Minister Farrakhan’s address to the Hip Hop Summit.

Then, from the rear left corner of the audience came shouts of “He’s here!”

It turned out that although two days before on CNN’s Talk Back Live program, Conrad Muhammad had said that he was not invited and even told not to come to the summit; he in fact was in attendance for the Minister’s remarks.

The Minister was pleasantly surprised, acknowledged Conrad Muhammad’s presence and again, urged he and Russell Simmons to resolve their differences in private and then come out in unity before the media. Russell Simmons, from the stage, nodded his head in agreement, and Conrad Muhammad from the back of the ballroom, smiled, waved to Minister Farrakhan and nodded his head as well.

2001 Hip Hop summitThe Minister concluded his remarks by telling the artists, ” It is not enough to be a good rapper, your character has to be up under your rap”. He said that the real power of a human being was present in the power of character to generate trust and maintain it. The Minister said that people trust him and that some have entrusted him with many secrets and then turned on him, but that he has never divulged their secrets.

Minister Farrakhan then added that he hoped he would be able to visit Rev. Al Sharpton in prison and he added that what Rev. Sharpton did in protesting the Vieques bombing was so important in that it demonstrated unity between the Black and the Brown working together. He said that Rev. Sharpton should not be in jail for 90 days or even for 90 minutes.

The Minister then briefly touched on his efforts to help raise $1 billion dollars in an economic trust fund and he encouraged the artists to prepare for the day when they will not be making records. He encouraged them to save and invest their money and to not partake in excessive conspicuous consumption or “bling-blinging”.

After receiving a standing ovation, the Minister made some concluding remarks and after walking over to hug Queen Latifah, Minister Farrakhan encouraged unity among music executives like Kedar Massenberg, Russell Simmons, and Barry Hankerson, and also acknowledged the attendance of Sister Souljah, Stephanie Mills and Lennox Lewis.

Among those in attendance at the Minister’s keynote address were Hip-Hop opinion leader Davey D, writers Kevin Powell and Harry Allen, activists Viola Plummer and Ras Baraka, radio host Bob Law and Hip-Hop pioneers Kool Herc, Fab Five Freddy and D.J. Red Alert. Also present were Black intellectuals Michael Eric Dyson, Cornel West as well as NAACP head Kweisi Mfume.


written by Cedric Muhammad

Friday, June 15, 2001


CynthiaMckinneyred-225Before Minister Farrakhan spoke there was a private gathering of artists and label executives.. During that gathering several members of congress addressed the body. Earl Hilliard, Benny Thompson and Cynthia McKinney.. Mckinney’s speech to the audience was passionate and penetrating.. She talked in detail about Cointel-Pro. For many in the room it was the first time they had ever heard about the FBI’s insidious program that impacted many of the freedom struggles.. McKinney talked about how Cointel-Pro was impacting artists today….



After Cynthia Mckinney a number of people spoke including Talib Kweli and Michael Eric Dyson who lit up the place.. We are including his address to the artists…

Just before Minister Farrakhan spoke in the big hall, Chuck D of Public Enemy spoke to the gathering of artists and executives.. In the room were executives from MTV as well Stephen Hill of BET.. Chuck went in on the role of media and the perception it leaves with folks around the world.. Many of the executives were left feeling very uncomfortable.. Here’s his blistering address…


Hip Hop Icon B-Girl Asia One featured in a New Film About Her Life

Asia One

Asia One

As Hip Hop History month unfolds we wanna pay respects to Asia One. For those who don’t know her, she’s legendary Bgirl originally from Denver, Colorado who migrated  to the West Coast where she cut her teeth and honed her skillz with the Rock Steady Crew and the Zulu Nation..She’s been in countless videos and has worked with everyone from the Black Eyed Peas to Tribe Called Quest and the late Malcolm McClaren

She later established (1994) the BBoy Summit which has been one of the premier and dopest International Hip Hop gatherings around.. In recent years she’s been working directly with youth and setting standards with her organization No Easy Props which now has chapters in Europe.

She has been featured in Vibe’s Hip-Hop Divas book and the We B*Girlz book by Martha Cooper and Nika Kramer. Asia One is in the Freshest Kids movie.

Late this summer Asia One was featured in a short documentary called Asia One: Expect the Unexpected. It’s about her life, put together by long time writer, film maker, racial justice activist J-Love Calderon who is also from Denver, Colorado..The film was an official selection of 2013 Hollywood Film Festival and has been getting rave reviews. J-Love and Asia One also teamed up with a tech company called gravidi to enhance the viewing experience..and make the movie more interactive..

In the meantime folks may wanna check out the film below and dive into the unique lifestyles of the global concrete jungle led by enlightened street icon Asia One. Explore behind the scenes world of Hip-Hop culture and street dance told through the eyes of an unlikely bgirl born and bred in the Midwest.

3 Dope Songs From Amanda ‘Diva’ Seales A True Renaissance Woman

Amanda Diva Seales

Amanda ‘Diva’ Seales

Amanda Seales formerly known as Amanda Diva was born in Southern, Cali, but raised in Orlando Florida. She is a singer/ emcee of Grenadian descent ..She’s a playwright, comedian, author, designer, DJ and entrepreneur, a True Renaissance woman

In 1994, Seales made her debut at the age of 12 on the Nickelodeon sitcom My Brother and Me, the show was a big hit on the network but was eventually canceled due to disagreements between the producers and creators of the show, during this time Seales took a hiatus to focus on her education.

In 2004, Seales who was now calling herself Diva, released her debut Mixtape entitled “It Bigger Than Hip Hop, Vol 1″. After landing a job hosting MTV2, Diva began hosting a radio show on SIRIUS, the Hip-Hop Nation Show.

She also joined the DJ Drama/Don Cannon/DJ Sense-helmed Aphilliates crew, and published a book of poetry, all before receiving a degree in African-American studies from Columbia University. In 2007 her career took a surprising turn, when she was asked to replace Natalie Stewart of the musical duo Floetry, on tour. December of the same year, Diva released Life Experience the first EP of a trilogy.

After being released from the emergency room for a spinal tap, Diva continued to promote her sophomore EP, Spandex, Rhymes and Soul, which was released June 24, 2008. Amanda also provides social commentary and updates on her projects on her blog.

In 2009, Diva was a guest commentator on VH1’s 100 Greatest One Hit Wonders of the 80s. Amanda is also featured on Johnny Polygon’s 2010 mixtape Rebel Without Applause on two songs entitled “Blvd Broad” and “Get Right”….


Currently Amanda is making noise with a weekly online series called Things I Learned this Week.. It’s hilarious as she shows off her wit and acting chops.. It’s an extension of the work she’s been doing in the form of her one woman plays Death of a Diva and stand up routines/play It’s Complicated... Amanda also made a lot of noise as a host on Master in the Mix.

Below are 3 Dope Songs from Amanda Seales:

Amanda ‘Diva’ Seales ‘Catch Me’

Amanda ‘Diva’ Seales ‘Manchild’

Amanda ‘Diva’ Seales Trendsetter’

Bonus joint:

Amanda ‘Diva’ Seales  w/ Q-Tip ’40 emcees’

3 Dope Songs from Chilean Emcee Anita Tijoux

Ana Tijoux blueToday’s 3 Dope Songs celebrates the work of  Chilean emcee Anita Tijoux also known as Ana Tijoux.. She was born in France to two exiled Chilean parents who later returned after the US backed dictator General Augusto Pinochet was disposed.

She is what many would consider an emcee’s emcee.. Her nice, intense, laid back flows are precise, mesmerizing and often laced with social and political commentary..Her popularity is understated..

At almost every show I’ve seen her perform from Austin, Texas to the Bay Area gets sold out, attracting crowds that know every word to her songs, even as she raps in Spanish and French.

She had been grinding away for a minute. Initially it was with the group Makiza who many compared to NY’s famed Native Tongues because of their sound and style.. They made some noise with a couple of underground bangers in the late 90s that made the charts in Chile..The group put out a couple of albums including; ‘Vida Salvaje‘ and ‘Casino Royal‘ which was released in 2005 to rave reviews..

The following year Makiza broke up and Tijoux went solo. In 2009 she became a break star internationally with the release of her album 1977 which proclaims the year of her birth and is mostly autobiographical. Many in the US got their first peak at her when she touched down at SXSW in 2010 and blew up the spot doing songs off that album including the popular jam Sube which was done with Detroit emcee Invincible. The SXSW stop led to her launching a successful US tour..

anita-tijoux-latinaSince then she’s released two other projects including; Elefant Mixtape and  the album La Bala which was nominated for a Grammy.  Her music has been featured in the video game FIFA 11 and on the hit TV show Breaking Bad. She was also voted as Best Female Emcee Dominating Mics Everywhere on MTV Iggy…Lastly she’s been part of a campaign for women’s empowerment called Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide.

If you don’t know Anita Tijoux, you been missing out.. Check out some her joints below as well our first interview which was done a couple of years ago when I was introduced to her by the group and fellow Chilean emcees Rebel Diaz..

Anita Tijoux SXSW Intv


Ana Tijoux w/ Quantic  Doo Whop That Thing

This is a recent song from Anita Tijoux  where she hooked up with Colombia-based, British-born producer and musician Quantic. Here the two do a dope cover of Lauryn Hill‘s classic hit “Doo Wop (That Thing)”  The lyrics are flipped into Spanish by Tijoux, whose understated yet charismatic flow makes her a beguiling vocal presence, along with a Cumbia beat giving an alternative, tropical slant to this landmark jam.

Ana Tijoux Elephant

This is from the mixtape Ana dropped about a year and half ago.. Its a fun video and a warm up to what she had in store on the album LA Bala which would be nominated for a Grammy.

Anita Tijoux Sacar La Voz ft (Jorge Drexler)

This is vintage Ana Tijoux…low key, but powerful and captivating ..It’s an inspiring song about walking proud, being fearless, even if you have ‘nothing in your pockets’ and standing up in the face of oppression..  One of my favorite cuts from her featured on the La Bala album..

Anita Tijoux Shocked

This is one of Ana Tijoux‘s most popular songs to date which she did a couple of years ago to bring attention and support to the massive student strikes that were going on in Chile, which brought millions of people out to the streets but was ignored here in the US..She later re-did an acoustic version of this song in Tuscon, Arizona to bring attention to the plight of undocumented folks and the harsh anti-immigrant SB 1070 laws.. You can peep that video


The Wisdom of Chali 2na..Jurassic 5 is No Joke

chali_2na_Here’s a throwback interview from the Breakdown FM vaults.. It was done in LA 2006.. It’s the one and only Chali 2na of Jurassic 5

In promotion of their highly anticipated album, Feedback, true school Interscope recording artists Jurassic 5 have launched a massive nationwide tour that began on June 18th and will end September 13th 2006. Incorporated within those dates are back to back to back shows in Florida, including one at Club Revolution in Fort Lauderdale on August 5th.

For all of you that don’t know, Jurassic 5 is a very eclectic group of artists from Los Angeles, California that have been in the game since 1993. Originally consisting of two separate groups, the Rebels of Rhythm and Unity Committee, Jurassic 5 is made up of emcees Chali 2na, Akil, Zaakir AKA Soup, Mark 7even, and turntablist/producer DJ Nu-Mark. DJ Cut Chemist was an original member of the group but has since left.

Hip Hop pioneer journalist and activist, Davey D, had the opportunity to interview the deep sounding basso tone voiced member of Jurassic 5, Charles Stewart AKA Chali 2na. Originally from Chicago, many believe that Chali was nicknamed as such simply after Charlie the Tuna, the deep-voiced animated mascot of Starkist. But as he notes, it was really his father who originally gave him the name, who he himself was referred to by his peers as “peewee.”

Considered to be perhaps the most eclectic member of Jurassic 5, Chali is highly influenced by different forms of music, including Reggae, Soul and House. It was his musical well roundedness that led him to become a founding member of the Salsa Funk band Ozomatli (although he is no longer with Ozomatli, he still collaborates with them on occasions). Lyrically, Chali’’s highly complicated style has been compared to the likes of Rakim, often focused on topics surrounding the social and political climate of the times with wit and wisdom. His very artfully creative expression could be traced way back to his original experiences in Hip Hop as a graffiti artist, which complements his overall persona. As he very humbly puts it, “Hip Hop saved my life.”

The following is a short excerpt of a lively interview with Chali that was originally conducted on Breakdown FM and its full length audio version can be accessed through Davey D’s political website For right now, just check out this snippet of what Chali had to say.

-Tony Muhammad-

Download and Listen to the Breakdown FM Intv

Download and Listen to the Breakdown FM Intv



chali-2naDavey D (DD): When you think of Jurassic 5, it hearts back to the days when Hip Hop was flourishing with groups. Now everyone is a solo artist. Now you very rarely see a pair of emcees. One of the challenges of being a group is defining the roles, keeping the chemistry, that sort of stuff. So with Jurassic 5, do you guys have different roles? How do you keep the vibe and how do you keep the chemistry together?

Chali 2na (C2): It is a team thing, like having a basketball team or somethin’. We indeed sink into these roles that we feel most comfortable with and bring to the table. Everything that I bring to the table, eventually it was kind of fashioned for me to do, whether it is the basso tone part of the harmony or the presence itself. I guess that’s my role. For every member there is a role. There are four emcees. We are all on the same wavelength, but I guess different waves. Each part of what we bring to the table is the chemistry and makes Jurassic 5. I guess my role (laugh) is to hold the wall up.

DD: You as Chali 2na come from a very specific tradition of emcees; the basso tone voice, you know, starting with Melle Mel, moving to Chuck D … There are very few that have that, and so you have a lot of responsibility. And so when you get on stage or even when you get in the mic booth, do you feel like you are of a certain class? There’s been that tradition in Black music of, as you put it, of those who “Holds the wall up” and people just have to listen to the guy with “the voice.”

C2: (Laughs) I don’t think I think like that, it’s more like what could I contribute to make the song better; like it needs more of that, or maybe it needs less of me. But, I do feel proud to be part of that lineage of the Rakims and the Melle Mels, for sure. I’m proud of that for real.

DD: When you look over your albums, I’d like to say that you guys boldly go where a lot of other people don’t go as a group out the gate. Like in your song Contribution, man, you guys were talking about raising kids at a time when no one was thinking about it! This other song, Freedom, you guys are boldly talking about Mumia and challenging people! Talk about that and the reason why you guys bring that political spirit when you do your songs, bring up these relevant issues at a time when grown up adults who run these media outlets are saying, “You guys are a little too smart for your audience. Can you talk about a blunt? Something like that?” (Laughs)

C2: Well, for us man, besides all the fun we have and besides rockin’ the crowd, making people dance, moving you’re a**, we want to make your mind follow … In the end, at the bottom of the line of it all, we being Black people in America up on stage, with the mics in our hands, broadcasting our voices amongst the crowd … that privilege was not granted to us all the time in this country. There were a lot of cats that had to die so that we could have the privilege to speak as clear and as concise and as opinionated as we are able to do right now. I think I could speak for the rest of my fellows when I say that when we do have the mic, the responsibility to being allowed to say something that helps and not hurts is evident. It’s on us and there is no way we can shun that responsibility. I feel that the minute we do is the minute that we have taken it for granted.

DD: Talk to us about the song Freedom which is at least 2 years old and is having quite a bit of a resurgence. Why have people immediately embraced it? What was going through y’all minds when you sat this down?

C2: See … we did the song before 9-11 and we were going to talk about the topic of freedom … But after the 9-11 thing, just watching how the world changed. Like, I’m 34. To see the sky stop and no planes fly, I’ve never seen that (before). I’ve never heard the sky like that (before). That bugged me out! To see the world change in an instant and seeing peoples’ civil liberties being threatened! We are pretty political in the sense that we try to keep up with daily events. This whole thing is a scary thing. The thin line of freedom … people are walking on that thin line. But freedom to me is the freedom to be free. So it’s like we had to speak on it from all of our perspectives, like a united front.

DD: Your line specifically talked about Mumia. It almost seemed like you were issuing a challenge to people! It sounded like you were mad as heck!

Mumia Abu Jamal

Mumia Abu Jamal

C2: Well, the line goes, “While we try to free Mumia Abu-Jamal two or three of ya’ll will probably be at the mall.” (Meaning) Just try to go on with your day-to-day lives. Basically, just try to live in life (in the way) that was created. You don’t want this world to be shattered; doing whatever it takes to keep things the way they are. When you have people like Mumia who have been jailed and who’s rights have been abused and certain actions have been misconstrued to the point that he is in jail for life.

… There are a lot of things going on as far as terrorism is concerned, where territory is concerned and it’s going on in our country and in your neighborhood. And it’s not necessarily the government per say, but you may have a corrupt preacher on your block that’s trippin’ and has everybody twisted or some alderman or some senator, someone that everyone looks up to … I mean these things need to be addressed at all times. And we feel that to speak out against evil is one of the stronger things you can do as a person.

Born in Aztlan, San Jose Zulu King Apakalips Speaks on Chicano Contributions to Hip Hop

Another interview from the Breakdown FM Vaults.. We broke bread back in 2009 with San Jose Hip Hop Zulu King Apakalips who gives us keen insight on Hip Hop in the South Bay, Bay Area Hip Hop History and the important contributions Chicanos have made to Hip Hop..

Respect the Lyrical Prowess of Hip Hop Zulu King Apakalips

by Davey D

When we talk about Bay Area Hip Hop we often focus on what is happening in Oakland which is considered Ground Zero. It is in ‘Tha Town’, that we find the likes of Too Short, Digital Underground, Keak da Sneak,Hiero, Blackalicious, Del tha Funkee Homosapien, Saafir, Zion I, Mistah FAB and so many more.After Oakland, the spotlight usually turns to neighboring San Francisco which is home to Bay Area legends like San Quinn,Rappin’ 4tay, Paris, Michael Franti,DJ Q-Bert, DJ Apollo and in recent days artists like Big Rich.

Sadly many overlook San Jose which is actually the largest city in the Bay Area and the epic center to high tech Silicon Valley.Perhaps its because San Jose is 45 minutes away from Frisco and Oakland which are just minutes apart or perhaps its because companies like Apple, Google, Oracle and other high tech giants dominate the news and overshadow SJ hip Hop. Whatever the case, make no mistake San Jose and the South Bay region has had major impact.

San Jose and the South Bay is or has been home to some notable folks who we all know and love. DJ King Tech of the Wake Up Show, producer Fredwreck, producer Kutmasta Kurt, DJ Peanut Butter Wolf and his Stones Throw record label started out of San Jose.DJ Kevvy Kev who is headed to his 25th year on the air, pioneering graph writer Scape One, female dance pioneer Aiko, Grand Diva Kim Collete, prolific writer AdisaBanjoko, Hip Hop Congress president Shamako Noble are some other names that also come to mind when we talk about folks who put the SJ and the South Bay on the map.Anyone from this part of town recalls the legendary b-boy battles that were routinely held at the Hank Lopez Center with the full support and cooperation of the city which was step up from San Francisco and Oakland.

This is the conversation we had with Apakalips a long time fixture in the San Jose rap scene who just released his masterpiece of a solo album called ‘The Otherside‘ Originally from Southern Cali, this community activist/ school teacher started out around 2002 with a group called Tributairies .They were best known for blowing up the Iguanas Cafe in downtown San Jose where they sparked off Lyrical Discipline.This was a weekly Friday night gathering which attracted emcees from all over the South Bay who would come through and test their skills.It was done in the same vein as the Lyricist Lounge in NY, the Good Life in LA or the now legendary underground parties and freestyles sessions at 4001 Jackson street in Oakland put together by Mystik Journeymen and the Living Legends crew.

Apakalips later went on to join the Universal Zulu Nation and eventually became the president of the Gateway chapter and quickly made it one of the more active chapters in the country. Apakalips would routinely hold unity meetings as he’d gather the heads of key Hip Hop and community organizations and tastemakers in the San Jose community to find common ground and to collectively work on projects impacting us all. He was tapping into the fact that San Jose had some of the pro-active heads who have some well heeled Hip Hop organizations around that have done incredible work. Shout outs to Hip Hop Congress, D-Bug, MACLA, Funk lab and Miese to name a few.

During our interview we talked about the release of his new album ‘The Other Side‘. It has been critically acclaimed and for many its a throwback to a date and time where people allowed their creativity to roam completely free without fear of violating some sort of record company politics or copyright laws. The Otherside has unexpected samples that give this an album your traditional boom bap sound on one track and a Latin tinged sound on another. Still on other songs you will hear the influences of drum and bass. No two songsare alike, yet the album has a consistent theme in terms of being gritty and lyrically sound.

The ‘Otherside‘ covers many topics including, California’s unique contributions to Hip Hop and its b-boy, b-girl tradition and its cultural influences. During our interview we talked about how Hip Hop is a form of communication and within it cultural expressions and activities like dance and rap go way beyond Hip Hop, and in fact are deeply rooted in traditional Mayan, Aztec and African traditions. Apakalips felt that it was important that we view Hip Hop with a larger historical and cultural lens.

We talked about the social and political movements that proceeded Hip Hop and how they impacted Hip Hop culture in the past and today.We particularly built upon the legacy of the Black Panthers and Brown Berets.Aakpalips reminded us that during the hey days of those organizations in the late 60s and early 70s we had Hip Hop expressions in the west coast with pioneering groups like the often overlooked Black Resurgents dance crew who were strutting and roboting long before Michael Jackson, dancers on Soul Train or the word Hip Hop was coined.

West Coast pioneer Julio G

West Coast pioneer Julio G

We talked at length about the important role Latinos played in Hip Hop, specifically the role Chicanos here on the West Coast. Apakalips lays out the long history and reminds us that just like their Puerto Rican counterparts on the East coast, Chicanos were down with Hip Hop from the very beginning especially in the areas of graf. He noted that here in the west Chicano writers, taggers and muralist had a big impact on Hip Hop. We talked about the early emcees and deejays and the influence that icons like Julio G and Tony G who were part of the legendary KDAY Mixmasters in LA had on West Coast Hip Hop culture.

We also talked at length about the long social and cultural connection that NY had with LA. Long before there was some media driven East-West coast war, early Hip Hoppers were routinely going back and forth and building with one another. It was all love throughout the 80s. Apakalips talked about how pioneering Hip Hop and Latino figures like Hen G, and Prince Whipper Whip and Zulu King Afrika Islam hooked up with Ice T and helped set a tone for things to come.They set off famous Hip Hop club nights like Radiotron Water the Bush and Club United Nations and formed groups like Rhyme Syndicate and the Zulu Kings.

We ended by talking about some of the challenges facing San Jose’s Hip Hop community.One thing that is being addressed is the homeless problem. Apakalips and many others feel like the city hasn’t been doing enough. They are also addressing issues facing San Jose’s growing migrant worker population. In recent days they have also been dealing with an oppressive promoters law which requires anyone promoting an entertainment event to pay a 500 dollar fee and get a license which will allow one to put their name on flyers and pass them out.

written by Davey D

Return to Davey D’s Hip Hop Corner

We sat down and talk with San Jose rapper, activist, teacher & Zulu King Apakalips. He’s one of the Bay Area’s best kept secrets. Listen to the Breakdown FM Interview w/ Apakalips HERE:

Download and listen to Breakdown FM Intv

Download and listen to Breakdown FM Intv

Breakdown FM-Apakalips Interview


Zion I Holds It Down For Oakland

This is from the Breakdown FM Vaults.. We did this interview with Oakland’s Zion I in August of 2005.. They had lots to say about a variety of topics.. Enjoy..

Zion I: True & Livin’ Holding It Down for Oakland
By Davey D

Zion I stoop When we talk about West Coast Hip Hop, oftentimes the face to it has been limited to just a few individuals like Snoop Dogg, Dr Dre and more recently The Game. When we start trying to expand the vision a little and look to places outside Los Angeles to regions like the Bay Area we still find a limited view. Hence, in 2005, when you say Bay Area Hip Hop, people outside the region still think of groups like Too Short or Digital Underground.

Through all this narrowcasting we as a Hip Hop community has far too often by passed the brilliance and innovativeness of the West Coast’s underground. In other words, everybody in LA is not a ‘gangsta’ and everybody in the Bay Area is not ‘turfed out’ or ‘hyphy’. One such group that does not fit the mode and has been grinding away for the better part of 10 years is Zion I.

Over the years, group members Amp Live and Zion now known as Zumbi have taken their musical journey from Texas to Atlanta and back to the Bay Area. They’’ve been signed to labels like Tommy Boy and smaller boutique outfits like Nu Groove. They’’ve done everything from perform at huge anti-war rallies, teach class in some of the Bay Area’s most troubled schools and do radio mix shows on rock oriented stations that found an appreciation for the drum and bass records they have occasionally released.

Through it all, Zion I although critically acclaimed has not been able to break the confines and stigma attached to being ‘just another regional underground act’ from Bay Area. However, this time around things may be different. For starters, the group has upheld the Bay tradition by establishing their own independent record label Live Up. Second, many are saying that their latest offering ‘True and Living’ is their dopest album ever and will help carry them to the next level.

We sat down with group members Amp Live (producer) and lead rapper Zion to get the full 4-11 on the group’s history and future plans. Here is a run down of what they had to say…:

Breakdown FM- Zion I 2005 Interview


Zion I Breakdown FM Interview pt1

ZionI-largeProducer Amp Live who originally hails from Texas, talks about the first incarnation of Zion I, which was under the name Metaphor and consisted of four members.

They initially formed back in the early 90s at Morehouse College in Atlanta where they went to school. He noted that back in those days the crunk sound wasn’t in and that the Luke-style booty shaking music associated to the south at that time was eclipsed by the large numbers of New Yorkers in the area. The result was Metaphor having more of a New York inspired Hip Hop sound as opposed to one reflective of other regions. The cool thing about Hip Hop back in those days was that it all was in one bucket. You didn’t have all these industry driven sub genres separating the music

Amp talked about how the group became popular and did work in famed producer Dallas Austin’s studio. They also would frequently cross paths with Hip Hop icon Erick Sermon. Eventually Metaphor was signed to Tommy Boy Records

Lead rapper Zion I talked about how the group got played big time by Tommy Boy. He noted that they were young and hungry and did not prepare themselves properly. He speaks about how the four members signed a 20-page ‘pre-contract’, which laid the groundwork for a 75-page contract, which gave the label full authority over the group.

Zion talked about the way Tommy Boy tried to force a new producer on the group even though Amp Live was their producer. Zion talks about how Tommy Boy kept rejecting their music and would send the group back into the studio with strict instructions as to what songs to sample and what subject matter to cover in their raps. He noted that Tommy Boy forced them back in the studio so many times that the group was forced to go over budget and were left to languish with little promotion from the label.

Zion noted that the group took their bad experiences with Tommy Boy and applied it to the independent rap game when they came back to Oakland. Their new song ‘The Bay’ reflects their love for the diversity and independent spirit of the region. He also notes that people sleep on the Bay way to often.


Zion I Breakdown FM Interview pt 2

Zion I pointThe group explains where they got the name Zion I from. They note that it came from their understanding of the Bible where it talks about Mt Zion being a place where everyone gathered before Armageddon. They say they want Zion I to symbolize a place in Hip Hop where everyone can gather to hear some tight music.

They noted that when they first chose the name they had very little knowledge of the political implications that are associated with Zionism. Over the years, numerous people have approach the group thinking they were Jewish or connected to reggae. They talked about one incident where a Muslim group wanted to hire the group but ask to either downplay or change their name because of the political association connected to Zionism

The pair also talked about their stint as elementary school teachers. This is a path followed by several other high profile artists including Mystic, David Banner, Asheru, Defari and J-Live to name a few.

Zion explained that the pair have taught underprivileged kids in some of the most impoverished areas in the Bay Area and as far as Zion was concerned that was good because they got to give back something meaningful to the community while at the same time gaining valuable insight and perspective. Amp Live explained that teaching has also kept the group youthful and that by teaching they had the privilege of seeing up close and personal the essence of what Hip Hop is about.

The pair also talked about the current move to try to make Hip Hop more useful in the classroom. It’s a direction they feel is needed because it allows one to make a variety of subject matter addressed by Hip Hop artists, relevant to the students.

Zion spoke about his Uncle and the work he does with math. He teaches kids math by using rhythms as a way to help children retain information. He says that this technique is rooted in African traditions.

Finally, the group talks about the inspiration behind their new song ‘Luv’. They said they wanted to give their audience something uplifting and they dedicated to all those who are struggling day to day.


Zion I Breakdown FM Interview pt 3

zion-i-true-livin Here, producer Amp Live talks about the Bay Area’s rap sound and how it’s extremely diverse. From the street oriented turf music to underground backpack, he notes that all of this is centered around Funk Music. He goes on to explain the significant role funk plays and how its long relationship to the Bay Area.

Zion expands upon these points by talking about how the Bay Area is made up of so many ethnic groups and people from all lifestyles. He notes that’s going to be reflected in the music. He also noted that as a group, Zion I wants to bridge the gap between Hyphy and ‘turfed out’ music and underground acts. He says he hates the term backpack, which is a label often, attached to groups like his.

Zion went on to explain that his group is from the old school and that they yearn for a time when it was all this was seen as Hip Hop and not divided. He says Zion I is Hip Hop and makes good Black music. He says it’s a challenge for the group to overcome the limiting industry driven definitions that have put the group in a box.

Amp added that he feels the group is like Outkast in the sense that they push the envelope musically and that they manage to get a little bit of everyone that includes the thugs and the back packers.

The group talks about performing at lots of community events and social justice rallies. This too sometimes results in the group being stigmatized as an act that is incapable of laying in the cuts and just kicking it. Once you get to know Zion I, you’ll quickly find that they really don’t hold up to many of these assumptions.

They explain the background to the song ‘What U hear’ which features Del tha Funkee Homosapien. They say it’s a straight up Hip Hop song that took shape once Zion and Del started rapping.


Zion I Breakdown FM Interview pt 4

Zion gives a run down about the art of emceeing. He builds upon the legacy of dope rhymesayers of the past like Hiero, Saafir, Motion Man and Living Legends. He gives props to the modern day bay spitters like Balance, MTV Freestyle finalist Locksmith and Oakland Freestyle King Mista FAB.

Zion explains that he tries not to get into battles. Instead, he wants to build with all these artists and help forge a new Bay Area coalition. Zion also talks about how a good emcee is one that brings new perspectives and styles to light.

Zion I Breakdown FM Interview pt 5

Amp Live talks about his production style. He says that his audience appreciates the fact that he has always pushed the envelope and brought new sounds like Trip Hop and Drum and Bass to the table. He says a true musician knows no boundaries and is all about making good music. He noted that he plays the piano and often replays riffs that he many would sample.

Zion talks about the new album ‘True and Living’ and notes that it’s a reflection of where they are mature wise and that it was important for the group to release this on their own label. He explains that the group wants to celebrate Hip Hop and not get caught up in being angry about the way corporations dominate and exploit the culture.

The group concluded by talking about their new movie which was scheduled for a fall release, but will probably be complete in time for a spring 2006 release. The movie is a sarcastic look at the group’s journey through the music industry. They play caricatures of themselves…




More Than a Movie: ‘The Beat’ Isn’t Art… So What’s The Word?

Scene from The Beat

Scene from The Beat

Ten years after it’s theatrical release in 2003, a directorial debut from one of the youngest filmmakers to have a feature film accepted to the Sundance Film Festival retains its buzz as a classic among online and niche markets, gathering a following through social media & television almost as if the film itself was a brand new release.  A common question that typically follows is:

How come I never saw this movie before?

It’s a good question.  When “The Beat” featured in Park City, Utah in 2003, the year after many prospects at the previous Sundance Festival flopped, distributors were understandably hesitant to invest in new films, especially from unestablished filmmakers.  So when Symbolic Entertainment was offered a deal with Ardustry in 2005 for the video and television release of “The Beat” it was a welcome negotiation considering that nearly everyone involved in the film– from the producers, the writer/director, and even the star– were first-time filmmakers (many of them still undergraduates at the USC School of Cinema-Television at the time).

The accomplishment of getting an independent film picked up for television was a major achievement, so much that several of the collaborators went onto pursue successful careers in Hollywood, such as Scott Speer, assistant director on “The Beat” who directed last year’s blockbuster, “Step Up Revolution“, and writer/director Brandon Sonnier who currently writes for the NBC drama “Blacklist”.

Any professional in Hollywood can tell you that “making it” in this industry is no guarantee, let alone a walk-in-the-park.  Success has less to do with your academic degree and more to do with your networking and savvy negotiation… or simply being at the right place and the right time, such as the case with the film’s lead, Rahman Jamaal, a colleague of Sonnier’s that earned respect for his ability to rhyme and was eventually asked to contribute to the vision of the film during their freshman year of college.

The result of this collaboration added 6 original songs to help carry the underlying theme throughout the film.  The rap lyrics provide social commentary acknowledging the difficulties and pitfalls independent artists face when attempting to succeed in the music industry:

 “…when the only opportunity for you to speak
Is through a beat commodity starts with the high marketing
All cuz we like pocketing profit that’s sky-rocketing
When artistry starts to be properly signed property…”

One particular piece entitled “This Isn’t Art” defends rap music as a legitimate art form by merging conscious poetry to a classical piano piece called “Prelude In G Minor” by Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff.   The lyrics assert that the cultural form of social expression known as “Hip Hop” deserves to be recognized and given the same respect as all musical genres in high regard:

While some assert that Hip Hop is dead, “The Beat” is a modern-day artifact showing us the opposite by encouraging artists to follow their dreams.  This is certainly easier to pursue today when you consider that more independent artists are able to find popularity through online media.  The real question is whether “bucking the industry” with an uncompromising message of social awareness poses a risk for major corporations who usually draw the line somewhere in the artist’s lyrics to maximize profits in a capitalist economy.

Today, “The Beat” persists as the story of underground success in a mainstream society that could easily boost its conscious sentiment to the spotlight if enough people watched it.  The fact that a movie over 10 years old is still a breath of fresh air to the fans who have grown weary of the same old rap clichés saturating the market is a testament to how “The Beat” was ahead of its time.  This may explain why it can steadily & consistently build an international buzz and still manage to remain relatively underground to this day.

 The power of Hip Hop has always evolved the social landscape from within, and this movie has only become more relevant with time.  It deals with controversial issues of race, class & justice in America that have continued to come into the public light as we’ve witnessed drastic social changes over the last ten years (Occupy Wall Street, Arabic Spring, Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, etc.).  “The Beat” is a fictional story of a young black man following his dream despite the odds of his environment, an American myth so common to the consuming public and younger generation that it speaks to the human ability to make sense on a world struggling with notions of authority and justice.

Something has been brewing in the fabric of society that a group of young filmmakers touched upon early on in their careers.  Time will tell if this artistic vision finds its place in a larger mainstream reality of rapidly changing norms & innovative technology, as the message of the film quite literally represents “the dream” of succeeding without needing to compromise for popular appeal.

One anecdote used by the main character Flip in “The Beat” is the slang phrase “word” to identify a statement of truth.  Throughout the film, Flip holds fast to the idea that he is going to “bring it back” as if “the word” has been lost to the ages.  Whether or not you agree, something keeps bringing “The Beat” back.  Perhaps it is the word.  As the industry chooses to invest in the marketing appeal of young artists, the street keeps supporting the message in “The Beat”, and that may be all that is needed for an artist to “Flip” the script, so to speak…

“The Beat” will air next Wednesday, 9/25 at 12:25pm on STARZ In Black.

written by Rahmaan Jamal

Boots Riley of the Coup While in Paris Speaks His Mind on Politics & Music

 “One of the problems, with political movements or music, is the fact we don’t think we matter”

-Boots Riley-

Boots Riley of the Coup

Boots Riley of the Coup

Boots Riley, from the Coup, is a true MC. He always manages to grab your attention, whether it’s on record, during a show, or discussing with him. Because he’s a rapper who speaks with power and he’s also an organizer who acts with power. As this year marks  the 20th anniversary of his group’s first album “Kill my landlord”, and the 2nd anniversary of the occupy movement in which he was involved from his hometown, Oakland, La Voix du HipHop sat down with him, in Paris, while he was on tour promoting The coup latest album, “Sorry to bother you”.

How MC Hammer’s success (and also Digital Underground and Too Short ones) helped him get signed, HipHop activist Vs organizer, the lure of black capitalism, the criminalization of black cultures, the shutdown of Oakland Port and its meaning, but also The Coup’s strategy to be heard and evolve (among other topics), Boots Riley provided us with some useful, entertaining and pertinent food for thought. In the true spirit of the MC.


La Voix du HipHop: Did you have the thought or the ambition of being a rapper when you would grow up, like kids of today?

Boots Riley: No. When I was 12, I wanted to do something Big. I think I wanted to be like Prince or I wanted to be on TV. And to me, what I knew was important was what was on TV.

Growing up as a child you learn about the terrible things in the world but you learn about them in a way that says  there’s no change. You learn about them with no sense of power, no sense of your own agenda in that world, except for maybe you could escape. You have the power to make yourself better and to guard yourself from that…

By  the time I turned 14, I joined a revolutionary and political organization. I started learning that the way the world is, it is able to be manipulated by the people, not just by the few who are in power. I understood there were certain steps I needed to take to be effective in this possible future that may happen. I was learning, not only things that were happening but also dialectical materialism, the idea that things happen for a material reason, and also that things always change. And that what you do has an effect how those things change. All these learnings gave me a sense of power and made me feel like I was doing something important. Like, “Ok, you don’t have to be on TV to be important, you don’t have to be on TV to matter…”

What led you into HipHop?

Boots-france-sudentsEverybody was rapping at school, it was just something you did like playing basketball or baseball. Lot of times, it was just people beating on the table and then it’s your turn! And at that time I was stealing my raps from a very good rapper named Schoolly D. I was saying his rhymes and people would be like oh shit!! In my town, nobody knew Schoolly D.

Then, since I was involved in organizing rallies, I was trying to get a couple of my friends to come. I was telling them that if they come to the rally, they could get on the mic and rap, there will be hundreds of people, and it will be like a rap show. My friend Johnny was like, ok, I’m only doing this if you’re my hype-man. So I became his hype-man. That’s how I got started… And at that time, we had the dream he would get a record deal. But his idea of what a record was a freestyle. I mean, we thought all records were freestyle and that all the albums we heard was like somebody just got in the booth and started rapping and that it was easy. Then, I started asking around about the techniques to master how to do it actually. From there I was learning and practicing… And  my school was doing a play called “Eastside story”, that was a take-off of Westside story which was a take-off of Romeo and Juliet. They wanted to make it a rap musical play and I wrote all the raps for it. I was actually in the play and nobody booed the raps. So I was like wooah, I can do it! And for the record, the girl who was playing the opposite me in that play was Hiep Thi Le who ended up being a star in an Oliver Stone movie’s “Heaven & earth”.

How did you end up signing with Stud Fine’s Wild Pitch records, which at that time was an east-coast oriented rap music label with Main Source, UMCs, Chill Rob G, Lord Finesse, Gangstarr, etc.. For us, as fans, it was a huge powerhouse…

Boots Riley RappingFirst of all, at that time, in the early 90s, MC Hammer, Digital Underground and Too Short went multiplatinum. And the record industry works like this: You got a blonde girl sing and you go multiplatinum, then every record label has 50 blonde girls in their roster. So because of these three artists, every record label had to have somebody from Oakland or from the Bay area.

Once I decided to do this rap thing seriously, because of political organizing, I knew how to launch a campaign, I knew how to plaster an area with a poster or an idea, or how to go to door to door. So we applied that to the music. We had an EP, and we put posters everywhere in Oakland. The EP was available at this independent record store in Oakland and I guess basically the record label, Wild Pitch, went in that record store and asked who were the top 3 selling local artists. And it was us, The Coup, E-40 and a guy named Dangerous Dame. Dangerous Dame has just come off a major label record deal, he wanted a gang of money… E-40 and the click? they had other income sources. So we were just the cheapest one of the 3.

And there’s another reason we got signed. Stu Fine, the owner of Wild Pitch, is a great A&R person and a terrible business person. So he signed stuff that he didn’t know how to make money on, just because he liked them. The way he got into this business actually is that He had been first in the music industry in the 70s and hen he had to quit to do baseball management or something like that. He was walking down the street and there was a LL Cool J concert, he walked in and decided to stop with the baseball stuff and start a HipHop label that day. So he decided he would just sign things he liked… So he had people like Gangstarr, he hooked up with Guru and them, he hooked up with DJ Premier, who was in Texas, and put them together. But the point is most people wouldn’t even sign them and put them out, same thing with The Coup. We’ve been shopping stuff, nobody was interested. Stu signed us just because he liked us, but he didn’t have any idea on how to market us at that time. You know Gangstarr didn’t really sell records until they went to somebody else… Same thing with Lord Finesse… He was signing people nobody else would sign. And if Stu was a good businessman, he wouldn’t have signed any of us.

You’ve been on a major label. You’ve been in independent label. What are the pros and cons of being independent, today. Especially when you do the type of music you do?

It’s all capitalism at the end of the day. The idea of independent capitalism that is better than corporate capitalism is bullshit. Slave masters were independent capitalists. It’s not necessarily better. It’s not necessarily worse.

Sometimes, when you have a small label, you can get more attention, but you don’t get as much coverage… Epitaph records for “Pick a bigger weapon”, for instance, was the best experience. The same label 6 years later, as music industry changed, had different tactics and strategies, and I felt that they didn’t have as much faith in our record. It’s not their fault. That’s part of the reason, a small part, that is, not so many people who like the Coup know the new album, “Sorry to bother you”. Anyway, I don’t think there’s any formula to our type of music.

The really small independent label I was on for “Steal this album”, they still owe me 60 thousand dollars. They stole it…

Talking about “Steal this album”, there is a lot of misunderstanding about “Me & Jesus the pimp”… Personally, I saw it as a critic of black capitalism, as it repeats the same violence to the same people.. Could you elaborate on this one. What’s the message?

Actually there’s quite a few messages. The main idea, to me, is Jesus the Pimp, symbolizes the idea that we can be free by black capitalism & black entrepreneurship. You know the things people get caught up in their struggle, for some sense of power in their life.

But first and foremost, I wanted to write a song about sexism. I started to realize that how sexism (that is taught to women) actually affects men’s lives in terrible ways. So in that song, I wanted to talk about that.

I went to film school, I always liked to tell stories, I liked to write descriptive things, and also after “Fat cats & bigger fish”, I started seeing people thought I had a talent for that, so I decided to write another story song…

The choice of title? Before I was on internet a lot, I had just remembered there was a revolution in Grenada in 1979. So I was like I’m going to use that for title, because it was a social revolution.

I want to address “fuck a perm”… I mean, in the early 90s, lots of black folks had jheri curls, especially on the west coast… Weren’t you dissing people who could have been fans of your music?

Boots-francestrikeBack then I had natural hair and people were criticizing it like ‘what you’re doing with your nappy ass hair!’. I wrote that song as a response to the critics about my hair. Also, I think at that time I was at San Francisco State University where there were folks who changed their names with stuff that meant King or Queen. So I was influenced by the culture around and it did have an effect on my writing. A lot of those who considered themselves as revolutionary or conscious were preachy, like you need to change yourself…

Now, you said lots of people had jheri curls back then. Actually they didn’t  so much by the time the song came out in 1993. Even Ice Cube had cut his curls…And to get back to the fans, here’s an interesting story. We were on tour promoting “Kill my landlord” and we went to Milwaukee. Milwaukee in 1993, stylistically, fashion-wise, looked like Oakland in 1986. We were on the stage performing and I remember E-roc saying to me, don’t do “fuck a perm”. We didn’t do it as it was obvious 90% of the crowd had curls. It wasn’t about politics, it was just style. Then we got out to sign autographs, and a group of dudes walked by and they were like “Hey Coup” – [because of a lot of people called us “Coup”], “Hey Coup, fuck a perm… Fuck you”. And they kept walking and got into their car. And they were just sitting there, not so far from us.

Then we left the venue, and they followed us, bumping the whole album loud in their car and they kept yelling “fuck a perm”. And they all had curls… They really seemed hurt. But they were bumping the album. We went to different clubs, they were still following us… So it became clear there are lots of things on the album those dudes could relate to, but the song made about appearances w as the one that touched them. And that wasn’t even the intention of the song, as if the appearance was what was all about. And things are still that way today. We had all these articles about young people sagging their pants, etc.

So you say, the problem is not how we look like nor our culture…

BootsRileybrown_1For years after the civil right & black power movements, we’ve been endoctrined by the media that told us the problem wasn’t the system, but the problem is people being lazy, irresponsible, savage, etc. And some of black intellectuals response to this was chiming and said yeah, but it’s because of these culture conditions: Which was we don’t know ourselves so therefore we’re lazy, violent, etc. But the reality is: That’s bullshit.

We’re so much endoctrined that what we actually see black people as dangerous, ignorant, savage. They might be black people who are dealing with drugs, yes because that’s what exists in all our society. There might be like one person hustling and doing nothing, yeah, but you got that all over the world. The problem is that Black culture has been criminalized so they look to some other culture that doesn’t exist right there to say that’s what it should be. But then afterwards, that culture will be criminalized as well… It really stems from people running away from having class analysis.

Culture in everything is dictated from how people survive. From the beginning of the humanity, things have been organized for survival. In this system, that survival has to do with labor and economics. You work for money to survive. There can’t be new paradigm on how to look at addressing that problem. But until you do, you end up blaming the people…

How would you define yourself: An activist? A HipHop activist?

I wouldn’t call myself as a HipHop activist or activist. The activist , to me, is someone who moves from event to event, like a rally or a demonstration, which is kinda what’s being pushed as opposed to an organizer which has to do with more long term campaigns, with building something. I’m an organizer.

HipHop activism is a term that came about in the early 1990s. There was a bunch of us who wanted to see the landscape of political organizing change. It was boring at that time. The idea was : Trying to make this thing (political organizing) more artistic. And in the early 1990s, we had set up this thing called HipHop edutainment concert with the Mau Mau Rhythm Collective. And a few years later, people who were in the non-profit organizations picked up on stuff like this (on what we were doing) and started selling it to foundations to get money. Like HipHop activism is the new thing.

You had these non profit organizations that would come at you like ‘we want you to come and sit at this roundtable discussion. We’ll pay you a thousand dollars, come over here”. I go there it’s like a closed door discussion about political organizing… And then they take pictures of me, use it in a flyer or brochure, and after that, they’re like “we do HipHop organizing, give us some money, look we even got Boots Riley involved”… So, many of these non profit organizations make 10s of thousands or hundred of thousands dollars off of that and say that I’m part of these things.

It was on your Facebook page: Oakland Port, December 2nd, 2011. We did it. What does the shutdown of Oakland port mean to you?

Boots Riley & Mistah Fab Address the Crowd

Boots Riley at Occupy Oakland

A lot of the folks in non-profit organizations in Oakland are politically radical and revolutionary. But they have a job. And some of them in these organizations are not necessarily politically radical revolutionaries, some of them are liberal progressives, and they’ve been the ones doing certain struggles that stayed away from economic wages struggles. They’ve been the ones doing stuff around “Stopping the violence”. We gotta stop the violence in our community, ok. But they do not address the fact violence comes out of the fact there’s an illegal business that’s happening that needs violence to regulate  it. This business needs violence to regulate. You can’t come in and just take the money without fear of the police coming and locking you up. How do you eliminate the need for that illegal business? When you have jobs that pay decently. When people have jobs with decent wages, they’re going to be involved in that job, instead of the illegal business and the violence associated with it… But that’s too much, like class struggle, for certain folks. Especially for foundations, what they talk about is limited. That being said, some of those political organizations, not only non-profit ones, don’t have any base in black communities or in communities of color. Because they’re not handling what these people are doing on their everyday life which is trying to put some food on the table. And some people are like “Fuck marching on the streets, it’s not doing anything…”

We managed to achieve that shutdown because people saw it as something possible, as an economic blow to the system and as a way to have some economic leverage. That’s why people came out and drove for that.

Also we announced that at the exact right time… A few days earlier, a young white ex-marine from Occupy Oakland got shot in the face by the police.. So because it came out he was an ex-marine, a young white guy and also because it was caught on video, it blew up all over the place… people kept coming to the park Occupy Oakland demonstrators were occupying, and police kept coming back… And we knew it costed the city millions of dollars, so they couldn’t sustain doing that… So we put it out there, that we would just keep coming back, they’re gonna spend tens of millions of dollars, til they give us the park back. So they gave us the park, they opened it up, there were thousands medias from all over the world there.. So the idea of many of the organizers was like we got this world stage right now, let’s take it up one notch. It was a 3 thousand people meeting. 3 thousand people voted to have a general strike in one week from then. So the fact we didn’t say from 3 months from that, but one week, which seemed crazy for me at that time, most of us didn’t even think that would happen. We were just like we would put the call out there, put the idea that economic leverage can do something. People were like “Hell, yeah!” and it was all up in the media. And since it was connected to all the occupy movements in other cities, it made people felt like it had more power as well.

One of the problems with political movements or anything, even music, is the fact we don’t think we matter. Like you have a local rapper, a local band, and they might be really good to you, but you know they are only known in your city, you’re like “they’re only local”, and people don’t like “local”. Because if it’s only local, it can’t be that good. That’s what happened to us too. All of sudden when people from our city started seeing people from other cities liked us, they were “oh, they must be good”. Because people of other cities are better than me. That’s how we started getting a big local group of followers. Similar with this movement, people see that it is attached to something bigger. They feel they have more chance to win. So 50 thousand people came out and shut down the port.

The outcome of it? 3 years ago, a labor contract would come up and the Union wouldn’t even fight it. Workers would just lose their benefits and everything… Right now, what’s happening in Oakland is the BART workers and the train operators are on strike, the librarians are on strike. Other cities workers are striking, they’re striking and are supporting each other. That wouldn’t have happened in any other time. That’s illegal. But we put this tactic on the table. Because that’s the only way things are gonna be done, through solidarity strikes…

 HipHop (especially through videos and records) plays a big role in shaping the views and opinions of millions of people worldwide when it comes to the representations of Black (youth) life and experience. The Coup is known worldwide, today. How do you deal with these issues of representation black lives and experiences in front of the world with your music and now with the movie “Sorry to bother you”?

boots-atstrikeThere are plenty of mafia shows on TV all the time, and people are not scared of Italian people all over the world… Most of those representations and images of black people come from portrayals of news medias and the political of what happens in a city and why it happens.

The image of black people that people put out or that artists put out is just the image that they are talked too or that they see on the news. It’s not necessarily the image that comes from what they know.. See, you could live in a city and have most of your information about that city given to you by the news. And often that’s the case, and you make certain assumptions and logic based on the some of these basic facts you hear on the news.

And also what is being said on some of those songs is exactly what they are taught about what the world is supposed to be about in school. They are taught that if you have money, it’s because you work hard, be smart about it, and figure out how to hustle… If you don’t have money, it means it’s on you, it’s not the system. So, that leads to everything else.

Now, whether people are afraid or not of the image of black people, has to do with how they categorize people. There’s a TV show called Dexter, about a blonde white guy who is a mass-murderer, he’s the hero of the show because he only kills the bad people. Nobody is afraid of blonde white guys. So, it’s not just videos. It’s everything, the news, the movies. We hear on the news, a random shooting happened. NO.You can explain clearly, like this is the dope game, there are no jobs paying 12 dollar/per hour in the area, it’s not random. It happens because of these things… You have non profit organization that would be like we need to stop the violence and talk about interpersonal communication. But it’s not about that. If you talk to people from these organizations, they admit it’s not about that, they admit the solution is having jobs that pay more. The question is how to get that? You only get that through making a radical militant mass movement. It’s a hard thing to do and who wants to spend their life doing that? But we have no choice.

I remember Digable Planets saying that they capitalized on their pop success (Reachin’) to put out their master plan into action (Blowout combs) which, lyrically, kinda hit as hard as any PE album HipHop. When you deal with Art & Revolution like you, is there any strategy to adopt to get your message heard?

It must be a very long strategy because I’ve been doing this for a long time… More seriously, I have strategies, the question is whether they work or not. I had a strategy with “Steal this album”, back in 1998. But at that time, there were no downloading. So back then, if you steal an album from a store, that store still has to pay for the album. We had a lot of fans, a lot more fans than those who were represented by record sales. So for instance, for me, besides an Ice Cube album, every album I ever had was dubbed on cassette tapes. One person would get an album and we would dub it, that’s how it went. HipHop when it was just in the black communities didn’t even go gold. A lot of people were listening to it, but it wasn’t what you were spending your money on.

So “Steal this album” was based on the idea that what if you have 3 millions of fans, but your 3 millions of fans are among the brokest people on earth and someone else has hundred thousand fans, but those fans are wealthier. It’s gonna look like more people like that person.  It’s gonna change how people make records. So here’s the solution: Steal this album.

What’s the coup business plan today?

Today, touring is our main way of promotion, we can’t really rely on anything else. We have some fans who are more well-known, so we try to enlist them to help us. We have for example, Patton Oswalt, who is a well-known comedian in the USA. He made recently (In june 2013) a video doing an interpretation of “Magic Clap”. We’re trying to get Dave Chappelle… So that’s one of the strategies. I think I’m also going to do sort of political comedy talk shows, so I also could stay at home, I need to.

-courtesy of  La Voix Du HipHop- (Paris France)