6/21/14

Saggers are NOT the problem

So young men wearing saggy pants are ruining society? And they're the ones we need to watch out for when it comes to our safety & wellbeing?

Reminder:

Bernie Madoff pleaded guilty to 11 Federal charges, including fraud, money laundering, perjury, and theft. It is believed that he willingly swindled his investors and affiliate organizations out of their assets to the tune of billions of US Dollars, destroying the financial lives of countless Americans in the process.

Former United States Army psychiatrist and Medical Corps Officer Nidal Hasan took the lives of 13 people and seriously injured dozens of innocent bystanders when he opened fire at Fort Hood, Texas, "with a high-powered, high-capacity handgun he had fitted with laser sights." (Wash. Post 8.28.13) He has since been sentenced to death for his crimes.

In 1992, murderer and serial rapist Jeffrey Dahmer was tried & eventually convicted of raping, torturing, and viciously killing 15 people, most of them Gay or Bisexual men. This, apparently, was his method of "dealing" with his own issues regarding his sexual orientation. He was later killed in prison by a fellow inmate.

***

It's harsh, I know, but the reason I pointed this out is because I'd bet money NONE of these men were a part of the so-called "sagger problem" in our country. In fact, all three men were subject at one point or another to wear some sort of uniform or suit in order to conduct their daily business. Not only did their outward appearance allow them access to otherwise personal information & individuals, it provided them the perfect cover to CONTINUALLY commit their crimes of choice. To boot, these men were educated and did not come from struggling families, as so many Americans feel are also part of the problem with so-called "saggers." They were calculated in their actions, and unapologetic or indifferent when handed their punishment.

So before you decide to join the Don Lemon brigade and tell young Men of Color to "pull up their pants," take a good look at some history books & criminal court cases. Chances are you should probably stop complaining about the guy whose clothes you don't like and maybe keep an eye out for the suspicious smiling guy in the nice blazer. -_-

#STOPJUDGING #MindYourOwnBusiness

4/7/14

Hey. Old(er) Guys. Relax.


Of late, I've noticed several older artists, entertainers, producers, writers, and other music industry professionals have come out publicly to denounce the apparent disarray and dilapidated state of the business. Notable individuals such as Quincy Jones, Tony Bennett, Reverend Run, Rick Rubin, and even former industry guru Clive Davis have all, in some way, shape, or fashion, taken a moment to note what they have decided is the lowest point in Popular Music history. Out of respect for their body of work and influence over said industry, I have, to a degree, kept generally mum about my feelings regarding these statements. However, after reading some very recent (and very scathing)  blanket remarks about the business - a business of which I am, for lack of better assessment, a part, and hope to someday be a more active participant - the Gemini rebel in me could no longer stand by without offering my 2 cents, for whatever it's worth.

My problem with these kinds of statements when they're made, is a twofold caveat. The first fold occurs when one takes into account the wealth and notoriety of the individuals in question. I cannot take seriously the ranting and gnashing of teeth on the part of industry professionals who have not only made their bones, but invested them, gathered them up, stored them away, and have no problem living comfortably off of said pile for the rest of their ageing lives. To add insult to injury, it would hardly be disputed that this wealth and notoriety came from said individuals' dealings with the music business. In other words, these gripers are griping about the very same situations that helped get them their sack of gold. But, oh, I guess now, apparently, it's okay to be mad at everybody else trying to do the same thing.

You'll pardon the blankest of blank stares that I am now emitting as I type this.

The second fold of this issue takes into account the fact that the folks who are complaining about the state of the industry now have very much played a part in its apparent "demise." Members of the legendary Hip-Hop group, Run DMC, have said, for example, that they are fed up with the blatant, payola-style radio rotation happening today. I find their complaints humorous, since it was this very same style of playlist-based music rotation that allowed for groups like Run DMC to generate a radio listener fan base. I see way too many flaws in older producers whining about how the genre of Hip-Hop has lost its way in becoming a profit-based industry, when its innovators can't deny that, even in the genre's infancy, all some of them wanted to do was be able to make some quick money off of some rap songs. I also find it difficult to take seriously a statement about how music creators now are focused too much on profit and making quick money, when it was the revenue and bottom lines of these older creators and their brands that eventually - coupled with the advent of downloadable music and instant gratification technology - ran the coffers of the business virtually dry. Let's not forget that one of the main reasons Clive Davis was asked to step down from his lofty position at Sony/BMG was simply because Barry Weiss of Zomba Records was willing to accept a much more reasonable paycheck. Because Clive Davis the legend could no longer be financially supported by the industry he helped facilitate over the past several decades, via an economic lifestyle to which he had become quite accustomed.

I mean, really.

But I do think what is most troubling, and what hurts the most about these kinds of dismissive, virulent statements, is that they don't take into account the full scope of what's actually going on in the Popular Music industry today. It's obvious that these guys are just reading (probably skimming) the headlines of popular editorials like Billboard, Rolling Stone, or Spin. This - coupled with what I'm sure is a toxic mix of rumors, insider information, and some bitterness from their own experiences - is helping to fuel the flames of resentment for what is only a portion of the landscape in pop culture at this time. To be fair, no one individual could possibly take the time to really survey the entirety of the moves being made by different artists, writers, producers, and the like. However, when legends like Tony Bennett come out and say that music today is "terrible," with no addendum as to which music he's referring or why, I, by virtue of my profession and resume, have a right to be offended by such a blanket assessment. And to an extent, I am.

As a matter of fact, I'm pretty pissed off, if I think about it too much. And I believe the appropriate response to a most of this is, how dare you?

How DARE you.

For me, in the end, all I wanna do is make some great music, have people hear it, tour the world with it, spread love, and have a great time with the work that I do. What I wish these older individuals would do is stop seeing what they want to see about the music industry, and maybe take a deeper look into what's actually happening. There is some amazing music making going on right under their noses, that's also being shared and filtered throughout the business, but because they're so busy refusing to see past the end of their noses, they're completely missing out. What new music makers need right now from veterans like the above mentioned is positive support, encouragement, education, and solidarity. Stick to that formula, and it's almost inevitable that they, and all of us, are bound to see the kinds of paradigm shifts in popular music & culture that we so desire to see.

But if you're just going to go around and ki ki about all the things you don't like that are happening in the business right now, I have three choice words for you:


2/4/14

New Song, New Lyrics: The Darkness Behind

THE DARKNESS BEHIND (simple version)

Music & Lyrics: JP Murray
Produced by: JP Murray

Free Download Link: http://tiny.cc/tdbs
#tdbs

"The Darkness Behind" was one of the 17 tracks considered for my upcoming LP. After my private listening party during the Fall of 2013, 10 records were chosen, and "Darkness" didn't make the cut. However, I felt a strong attachment to the song, and wanted to share some of the work I've done for the project over the past three years. I hope you enjoy this "stripped" down version of the original record.

I would like to dedicate this song to Shaun 'Kashan Ray' Fields, a friend and fellow musician who made it his business to live in love and walk in the light.



VERSE:

I believe
I believe in second chances
Cause it's hard to get it right the first time

I believe
I believe in a higher power
And I love how what I do falls into the design

I believe
in the feeling that we are
a part of something bigger and hard to define

And I still believe
Life is for the living
And that we can be anything we set in our mind


CHORUS:

Anytime we step into the light
We’re bound to leave some darkness behind
I’m not gonna be afraid to shine
It’s time to leave the darkness behind


VERSE:

I believe
I believe that every one of us
Has a purpose and a path we’re led to fulfill

I can’t say
What that purpose is for sure
But I can tell you right now, not to doubt what you feel

You’re not here
By some twist of fate
There’s something in your being here that makes you you

So take a minute
To think about what you love
And that’s how you’ll find what you’re meant to do


CHORUS:


BRIDGE:

Take a look around us
Look how far we’ve come
And until I’m sure it’s over
I know I’m far from done

12/27/13

It's Just Radio...


I wrote the following in response to this interview between Hot97's Ebro/DJ Cipha Sounds and famed Hip-Hop group, The Lox. See below for that:





If you didn't listen, the convo is once again breaching the subject of NYC/Tri-State MC's and Hip-Hop artists having to struggle to get airplay in their hometown. I posted the original response via Complex Magazine's article on it. To see their full story, Click Here. As far as my retort, it's a long one, so I hope you have your reading glasses on. *grin*

I've said it before, but Emmis Communications, Hot97, and Ebro specifically get no love from me regarding this topic. Last year around this time, Ebro got on his proverbial pulpit to explain that when it came to NY Hip-Hop and getting airplay, the most important aspect for making this happen was about "earning" the "privilege" to be presented on a mainstream radio market. I would assume that he was referring to an artist's sound, visibility, crowd factor, digital buzz, and above all else, concrete numbers re: audience attendance + dowloads/purchases from which someone like Ebro could easily use to gauge the potential for spinning a record from a NY Indie or up-and-coming MC.

Aside from this all sounding like self-centered BS...

I responded via Twitter that were such a kind of "rising through the ranks" the actual method by which Radio conglomerates allowed their DJ's/VJ's to break records from unknown/underground artists, New York City would have no need to ever play ANY Hip-Hop outside of its own region, since it has already been proven that there are dozens - literally dozens (I'm being VERY generous) - of NY/Tri-State MC's with clout, crowd appeal, brand power, booked tours, indie sponsorship, and a healthy history of successful merchandising who have yet to have their single dropped on Hot97 or Power105, much less get them to go in on any sort of joint business venture. And if you strip away all of these so-called 'qualifications' for airplay, there are HUNDREDS of rappers here whose talent and skill alone absolutely shit on most of the so-called 'Hip-Hop' being spun by folks like Flex and Cipha Sounds during their sets as part of their weekly stints on the air.

The hard truth is, as I've noted multiple times before, any radio station, regardless of genre, is under multiple contractual obligations with both record labels and advertisers to repeatedly spin singles and promote artists whose brands are direct affiliates of said contractual obligations. This is a basic tenet of the mainstream radio business structure. It has nothing to do with "earning your place," and everything to do with financial + economic partnerships forged by Communication + Entertainment monopolies long before Hip-Hop was even considered a viable genre of music. The fact that non-label, independent records get any love at all is a miracle, and every DJ/VJ knows that while they may have an aesthetic goal of playing good music (in this case, good New York Hip-Hop Music), they are not about to compromise their positions - or their paychecks - simply because some skillful MC wants to be heard on their radio show; they are still bound by the agreements they signed when first employed by the radio to follow directives meted out by their superiors (e.g. Program Directors, network executives, ad affiliates, etc.).

In other words, and to make a fat story thin, the radio game is still just as it has been for the last 75 years or so: a business. Nothing more, nothing less.

What kills me - and what pisses me off about this particular argument - is how folks like Ebro can know all of these things, being in his current position, and still throw out the hypothetical carrot-on-a-stick for up-and-coming artists to try and catch, in the hopes of getting some spin time on a DJ's set on the world-famous Hot97. It would be fine if he actually meant what he said and followed through with some of his preaching, but at the end of the day, ain't nobody's Ebro about to break nobody's underground record if ain't nobody important at his job willing to cosign it. Ultimately, good, hardworking MC's from NYC know this, and have long since moved on from throwing themselves blindly at the doors of Emmis Communications for the slim hope of being heard. We as artists (singer here) are tired of the runaround for 3-5 minutes of attention, knowing full well that thanks to the Digital Era and some sleepless nights, we can build our sound + brand with hard work, and without the help of the 'powers that be.' And frankly, I'm pretty sure most folks - even Ebro - would agree to that.

8/12/13

Refusal is Ignorance: A Marine's story of Racial Profiling

**On July 22, 2013, New York City Police Department Commissioner Ray Kelly issued an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal to respond to the claims of racial profiling and discriminatory practices within its jurisdiction across the five boroughs (Click Here). He cited various statistics and 'real-time' facts about the success of his programs when properly executed, insisting that the Police were doing their job, and doing it well. In the comments section, I came across an open response written by former United States Marine Corps 1st Lieutenant and Maritime Lawyer, Wayne Parker, detailing his experience with the "strategies" put into effect by Commissioner Kelly and his subordinates. I reached out to him via e-mail, and with his permission, I am posting it here.

Please note that the views expressed here are his own, but it is important, in the quest for an egalitarian, non-biased justice system, to see both sides of issues such as these**




[Dated July 23, 2013]:

Dear Mr. Kelly,

The stop-and-frisk program is liberal White America's racism run amok under the guise of preventing black-on-black violent crime. I'm an African-American male with fairly conservative views and not a big fan of the liberal Left and their insane "political correctness run amok" policies. I graduated from the US Naval Academy (class of 1990), served six years as a Marine Corps officer, graduated from University of Southern California Law School and practiced law in NYC at two big Wall Street law firms for eight years. I have no criminal record.



Twice in the eight years I lived in NYC (2003-2011) I was stopped by NYPD officers while visiting friends in Harlem. Those of you who live in NYC know that south Harlem has been gentrifying for about a decade now and I had friends, black and white, who had moved into the neighborhood. On one occasion, I was frisked because the NYPD officers in question thought I MIGHT have a handgun under my winter overcoat. They provided no rational basis for the search when I challenged them other than I "generally matched the description of someone" in the neighborhood who they thought might be involved in some criminal conduct. Given that the neighborhood was still about 80% black and the two cops were white, I have to wonder what they meant by matching the general description of some suspect. When they couldn't find a weapon or drugs, they then had the nerve to tell me to leave the area since I "didn't belong." I blew them off and when they saw me again later that evening and threatened me with arrest, I demanded to know on what charge. I let them know I was an attorney and warned them I would sue them personally for any further nonsense. Since several other attorney and professional friends were with me at the time (some white, some black), I think the NYPD officers realized that they were going to have a bigger problem that they wanted in dealing with me and let matters go, though not without making rude remarks and acting in the most unprofessional manner. I considered complaining to the NYPD but realized that the powers that be in the highest ranks of the NYPD and Bloomberg's administration have no incentive to change their policies. They have invested too much political capital in the stop-and-frisk program to objectively realize that it is a violation of Constitutional norms to search people without probable cause. And please don't waste my time with some lame excuse about how racial profiling is not part of the NYPD's official policy. The two officers I deal with were clearly engaged in racial profiling and my friends who witnessed this nonsense agreed. So I'm certain that an{sic} complaint to the authorities would have resulted in no more than NYPD issuing an apology for the two men's conduct rather than punish them.



That experience confirmed what I was always knew: that the stop-and-frisk program is nothing more than an infringement of certain NYC residents'/citizens' Constitutional rights against unreasonable searches and seizures posing as a measure to stop minority violent crime.

6/2/13

Respect My City

I guess this blog is going to get a tad more political as time goes on. But I'll try to keep it musically related. For posts w/musical clips, videos and content, you can always visit the main hub: http://pmurraymusic.com/

Recently, the New York press has been reporting the woes of Bill Lee, father of filmmaking icon Spike Lee (Do The Right Thing, Malcom X), and, in his own right, a legendary bass-player whose career in both the Jazz and Popular music idioms spans both the decades and the gamut of big names in the music industry (Aretha Franklin and Bob Dylan, just to name two you might have heard of *note lighthearted sarcasm here*).  Up until the last three years of his roughly 44-year residency in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, his musical proceedings at home have gone on relatively untroubled and sans any civil grievance from the nearby residents on his block.  However,  since 2010, a new tenant has taken it upon herself to make a statement about the "noise" coming from her adjacent NY native.  A recent article in the Times, pointed out:
"...This year through May 23, the [NYPD] said, 17 noise complaints have been filed about the Lee residence on a street called Washington Park. Most, if not all, were called in by a woman in the brownstone next door who moved in three years ago. “It wakes us up constantly,” said the woman, who spoke on the condition that her name not be printed because she did not want to aggravate her already strained relations with Mr. Lee’s wife, and did not want to be seen as a complainer...."
-- Corey Kilgannon, NY Times 5/31/13

I'm going to be as delicate as I can about this, but wish me luck. The bottom line is this: by all NYC laws & standards, there is nothing wrong with what the woman who has complained is doing (being a gentrifist neo-urbanite, sadly, is not a crime).  However, what no law enforcement official is able to say publicly - and what no long-time resident of the multicultural wonderland that is Brooklyn can openly admit to the press - is that there is always a give and take when it comes to neighbors and neighborly understanding.  I live in Breezy Point, Queens, a private - and relatively quiet - cooperative community with closely situated houses on both sides of mine, and I practice my music regularly.  Because my neighbors know of my profession, and my family and I have built good will with their families over the years, there is never a problem with me vocalizing, referencing records, or playing instruments, regardless of the hour.  A healthy neighborhood should be chock full of such understanding and mutual coexistence.  What newer residents of gentrified Brooklyn have done (besides raise property value, displace native New Yorkers, and create a modern-day cultural & ethnic Diaspora) is inset a highly privatized and distinctly suburban quality of life into a major metropolis, the likes of which has not been seen here - nor been required - since the turn of the century, at least.  It's Main Street USA trying to force its way onto Fulton Street, BK, and I could care less about what the statistical benefits or quality of life enhancements that come with this kind of a movement.  It's.  Not.  Right.

Mutual coexistence in a large, portioned city with myriads of cultures and countless varieties of lifestyles means that when you get the chance to live here, you learn the ropes just like the rest of us had to, and if the jazz player next door is working on a show piece till 2AM, you make light, humorous conversation about it the next day with your friends over brunch and move on.  There is something to be said for New York's make-it-or-break-it reputation, and just because Stable Mabel from Normalville, Ohio has a preconceived notion of how she wants her new hometown to act and what kinds of people she wants to live next door to, doesn't mean she's entitled to get it (no disrespect the the good people of Ohio, but you get my drift).  Call the NYPD all you want, if Lee's mortgage notes are paid on time (or if the house is already paid up), and I were him, I'd file a tort claim against this woman on the grounds of aesthetic and cultural coercion.  Long story short, baby girl next door needs to have several seats and turn up the volume on her HGTV DVR programming.  Legends are legends, Brooklyn is Brooklyn, and damned though I may be for loving my city as fiercely as I do, as we like to say here, "It is what it is."  DEAL.

5/4/13

God = Love. Period.


In regards to Christian public figures who have taken to vilifying Jason Collins for his statements (and the subsequent backlash against them), there are two major points to consider: One, The issue of judgment here does not come from the perspective of deciding whether or not people were condemning Jason's lifestyle. The more pertinent issue of judgment arose when they took it upon themselves to publicly categorize what makes a proper Christian and what doesn't.  As public professionals, I'm sure they've had to create and maintain friendships and business partnerships with people from all walks of life, and I'm sure as self-professed Christians, they've had no problem doing so.  So again, bigotry is not what is at stake here.  What is at stake - and what I take issue with - is a mortal's decision to take it upon himself to determine how other Christians should live and how they shouldn't.

I feel that anyone who claims to be a Christian who stands in judgment or condemnation of Jason Collins (e.g. any Out public figure who practices Christianity) or anyone who calls themselves a Christian but has pointed a finger at people like Chris Broussard for his assessment in this case has regressed from any real teachings of Christ Himself.  Hypothetically speaking, as human beings - all sinful in some way, by Biblical definition - not one of us is truly equipped to lay down a judgment upon another man's life based on his own Human nature.  I was raised Roman Catholic, and for a major portion of my life, I was lead to believe that coming Out and living an open lifestyle would lead me to a life of depression, fear, hatred, and isolation.  What I've come to realize is that Love, in its most unconditional form, is a Truth that supersedes any teaching put down in any book, the Bible included.

Secondly, it is crucially important to remember what the Bible is on a concrete, historical platform, and how it may be interpreted.  Please don't misunderstand, I believe that the Bible, like so many other religious treatises, contains numerous invaluable lessons on how to live right, but the the contradictions that exist between testimony, law, and the collections' historical context serve as proof - to me, at least - that taking this Book at its Word is an almost surefire way to completely miss its point (namely, from a Christian perspective, Salvation & Freedom).  So much of what has been written down in regards to ethics was based on the tribulations & socio-political climate of the times, and numerous edicts were based in previously existing philosophies on morality; Leviticus, the book from which Scripture damning homosexual behavior primarily generates, is arguably one of the books in the Old Testament/Torah most culpable of this fact.  Roman Catholic exegetes (i.e. Vatican-sanctioned historians of Biblical history and Christian archeology) have consented to the fact that stories such as The Creation and The Flood were cultivated from earlier accounts of these events with cited sources in documented pagan mythology.

Keeping a critical eye open while reviewing & researching the Bible allows for the intelligent individual to truly benefit from its teachings: God may have had a hand in the creation of the Bible, but it was Man - sin-laden, error-prone, red-blooded & corporeal MAN - that decided the outcome of the Book so many of us read & study today.  Jesus may have been The Unseen Guest at The Council of Carthage (397 AD), but it was under the mortal supervision of high-ranking Roman Catholic clergy from various parts of the known World that the final standard version of this Anthology was created.  Please remember that the history of the Roman Catholic Church is an institution filled with as much conflict and corruption as it is filled with great strides in helping the poor and leading people to the Faith; these are the same men who, on a whim, laid the groundwork for generations of future conflict and debate over Christ's teachings.  There is so much apocrypha and Scripture that was left out of the Bible simply because there were testimonies and stories that these men just didn't like; no spiritual influence, no divinely-inspired rejection.  They just didn't agree with what they read, so they left it out.

My point is, how is it that Christians - or people who deem themselves as such - allow themselves to be swayed to the point of prejudice and violent hatred by a collection of books that was written by hands who had as much free will & were just as privy to making mistakes as you or me?  When I see Scripture citing God's "hatred" or "jealousy" for any peoples or ideas, it doesn't line up with what Christ was ultimately trying to say.  If Christ was sent as One who was to essentially reboot teachings laid down in the Old Covenant by teaching the Law of Unconditional Love, how could anyone loving anyone else, in any capacity, be considered Sin, unless it were taking away their God-given right to love freely?  And how could someone as respectable, forthright, and humble as Jason Collins be considered a non-Christian or an unrepentant sinner and damned to Hell in the eyes of a God who, according to Scripture, only wants us to be free to Love and serve mankind?  Granted, none of us know enough about him to back up these claims, but it seems to me that Jason's a good guy; so says his family, teammates, friends, and countless fans.  We'll never know how much of the Bible was completely inspired by the Divine; what I do know is that Christ and His teachings are based way more on Truth and morality - concepts that Jason Collins seems adamant about upholding - than laws & religion - concepts that have been misconstrued and exploited from the beginning of our known history.

The First Amendment of the American Constitution most certainly guarantees that people like Chris Broussard are allowed to say - within reason - whatever they want, to whomever they want, at whatever time they want.  But Scripture points out that while Christ was adamant in teaching His followers how to live a more righteous life, His more important and crucial message was teaching the law of Unconditional Love, and it is hard to tell through comments like Broussard's whether or not that unconditional love is something self-righteous Christians can actually exemplify, since it is evident that they are preoccupied with an assessment of the Christian righteousness of others.  I hope Jason Collins completely ignores the judgmental statements thrown at him by ignorant men, seeing as how only God + The Universe can make the final call in matters of salvation and human happiness.  And something tells me that God isn't going to need to reference pages, or chapters, or sentences or quotes in anyone's Bible, Torah, Qu'ran, or any other religious tome of note to decide whether or not a man from any walk of life is worthy of these things.

I think it is fitting to close these thoughts by quoting a poignant post I saw recently:

"I believe in morality, which is doing right regardless of what I am told...not in religion, which is doing what I am told regardless of what is right.  You're welcome to your own interpretation of the Bible and of politics, of course, but for me, I need more than "the Bible says so" to justify certain things in this world and certainly to judge them."

P.'s Pal Ccounter