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.


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.


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.


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."


Sandy, and doing the right thing


In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, there have been far too many horror stories regarding insurance settlements, or lack thereof.  A recent article from ABC News talked about a couple from Staten Island, who, while witnesses claim their storm damage came mainly from hurricane-force winds, have been unable to received ample coverage because their insurance company, Allstate, insists the majority of the devastation was due to flooding.  To add insult to injury, portions of their home have been featured as part of ads currently running for Allstate on major media outlets.

Makes you a bit nauseous, doesn't it?

As someone who lives in Breezy Point and whose home has received substantial flood damage, I can tell you that our journey has not been an easy one, albeit we do have flood coverage.  But the dilemma seems to be occurring across the Tri-State area: insurance companies unwilling to settle for even a marginally legitimate amount, leaving homeowners to foot the bill.  What set me off this week were some of the comments posted in regards to the story mentioned above, particularly from one "Denise" who apparently understands insurance more than most.  She wrote this:

"The BOTTOM line is.. if you LIVE in a flood zone you best carry the insurance or pay the price! I have worked for [State Farm Insurance] and a flood insurance company, dont pay and yep that is your loss...fact of life.."

When I see effortlessly impersonal quotes such as these, I have to restrain myself from wanting to give people like Denise a good shake.  But rather than get too upset, I figured that maybe I'd simply be able to voice my opinion on all of this and see if it resonated.  And so I would like to publicly address this "Denise" with a personal question, if it please the court of Public Opinion.

Denise, may I ask if you've ever been in a so-called Catch-22 situation?  Where no matter what decision you make, even if it's the most informed one, one which feels like the most upstanding thing to do, it will still screw you in the end?  This is how anyone (and everyone) dealing with this disaster is feeling right now.  This is how my family is feeling right now, and we do have flood insurance.  And the fact that you can nonchalantly keep your emotional or empathetic distance by saying "fact of life" is the exact reason why everything about the idea of insurance doesn't match up with its actual results. 

To my knowledge, there are literally billions of dollars in assets and reserves in the Tri-State area when it comes to all types of insurance policies.  I don't wish to overstep that knowledge and assume, but let's just hypothesize that there's a possibility that "billions of dollars in assets" could translate into "if everyone in the Tri-State area filed a substantial post-Sandy claim (fire, flood, home, auto) and settled close to their maximum, the companies controlling these assets would have little problem settling and still not have to worry about going insolvent."  Now, of course, this is not the case; most claims entered have to do with flood damage, and so flood insurance is supposed to be picking up the tab for many of these cases.  However, the Catch-22 comes into play with the verbiage & how easily so many other sort of policies were able to jimmy their way out of having to deal with this disaster directly.

No one is really sure which meteorologists classified Sandy as a Super-Storm, but whoever the insurance executive was that took that term & ran with it, I'm sure, has received a promotion, a pay raise, or at least a pat on the back from his or her contemporaries and his superiors.  By utilizing the idea that Hurricane Sandy was not really a hurricane at all, insurance companies were able to hold off liquidating their assets to settle claims that would have otherwise been an admitted strain on company resources.  And so, again, flood coverage has been & will be the majority source of claim settlement and payout.  Is it legitimate?  By all standards and practices, yes.  Does it make it right?  In my view, absolutely not.

I'm not sure, Denise, if you've ever experienced a disaster in your lifetime.  I don't know you, and I would be insulting your personal life experiences to cry out that "you don't know what we're going through."  That wouldn't be fair to either side of that argument.  Still, I don't think it would be a far-fetched idea to suggest that at some point in your existence, you've had to deal with some sort of incident where something you've worked very hard to create or maintain was taken away from you in far less time than it took to create or maintain.  In those instances, I want you - and every other insurance representative or executive - to remember what you felt.  I want you all to remember whatever feelings, however big or small, of despair, depression, and anger, were attached to those instances.  Now I want you to imagine that on top of these feelings, there is a force involved - that you bought into, financially, emotionally, or otherwise - that was originally designed to help you cope with this instance, but at the very height of your conflict, this force found unforeseen ways to back away from its original design.

If that proverbial icing on the cake ticks you off, even if only a little, there is some humanity left in you, and you have a heart.  If you have no emotional input in a case like that, I feel sorry for you, and can only imagine what it's going to be like for you when something like this does happens to you.  And not to sound Karmic or send ill-fated vibes towards you all, but it will happen.  That's not a zealous or prophetic statement.

It's a fact of life.

I come from a family of hardworking, tax-paying, upstanding people.  My parents were both civil servants of the City of New York, working for the FDNY and DOE respectively.  If anyone understood the importance of protocol, following guidelines, and respecting the system, it would be them.  But they also understood that sometimes you have to bend guidelines and respectfully circumvent the system.  Why?  Because sometimes that's the only way you were able to do the right thing.  And if there's anything my father taught me growing up that actually stuck, it was to always, always try & do the right thing.

I know it seems ridiculous to you, Denise and other insurance pundits, that in these days and times, doing the right thing whilst working for Corporate American Insurance is a laughable paradox.  As was told to me when I worked for commercial Auto insurance, the goal of any insurance company is to make money.  I don't pretend to presume not to know this, and I don't expect there to be a major turnaround in policy over my comments.  What I would like to know is that somewhere, somehow, someone who works for one of these companies has at least one moment of, "Wow, maybe this kid has a point.  We could probably try & work out better outcomes for our customers going through this.  They could really use a break right now."  

Because let me tell you, we really could.  And judging from the amount of money being paid into insurance conglomerates in the Tri-State area alone, we should.

For the record, the Staten Island family who got undercut & exploited by Allstate has contacted litigation and has begun proceedings on what I'm sure will be one hefty lawsuit.  And for all you Denises out there who like pointing out the facts of life, the facts are these: the damage from Sandy was caused by flooding.   This flooding was brought on by an unprecedented super-storm.  That super-storm would've never come to pass if there were no hurricane to supplant it.  Put simply, the ultimate damage done to the Northeastern seaboard was due in major part to a hurricane.

Of course, you can slice the facts any which way you like.  I just chose to do the right thing.