The Fire Next Time

Some time around this past Thanksgiving, I had the idea to do a compilation album/project.  Police Brutality is an issue that hits close to home for me because my cousin, Tycel Nelson was killed by a police officer when I was young and there have been so many cases in the past 2 years, that it seemed like a relevant and important thing to do.  Through personal experience, learning about similar injustice and murder with impunity is enraging and historically documented throughout the history of the United States.  For this project, I approached a list of artists to see if they would be interested in providing a track for this compilation project.  I've worked with some artists from The Fire Next Time to some extent on various projects and others, this was the first chance to work together.

I revived my studies of James Baldwin while this project was developing.  In college, I studied his poetry, but didn't focus on his involvement in the civil rights movement or public speaking.  James Baldwin falls into a category of black activists that needs to be explored more by our country and especially for African Americans.  Baldwin was staunchly opinionated, articulate and explicit but delivered his messages in an academic, well packaged manner.  Leaders like Baldwin are often overlooked, however they should be upheld as equally important as Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., who are often put at opposite ends of a spectrum of African American leaders.  Martin Luther King Jr. was successful in getting the Civil Rights Movement legitimacy in the eyes of the mainstream media, however the political message civil disobedience sends doesn't reflect the anger, pain, injustice, corruption and frustration African Americans felt in light of segregation, Jim Crow, unequal opportunity, discrimination and history of slavery.  There are many other factors that add to the frustration, however the political message delivered by MLK is often put in contrast to Malcolm X's, "by any means necessary" mantra for editorial purposes.  Outright defiance, organized militant discipline backed with historic insight and religious support posed visual and public confrontation to the American political system that wanted to maintain control/power and sweep these problems under the rug.  The Black Panther Party also was put on the opposite end of this spectrum because they rallied behind the current Republican party's platform that the 2nd Amendment.   They believe(d) African Americans had the right to protect themselves from a corrupt political system and an equally corrupt, aggressive and deadly police force that consistently intimidated and harassed African American neighborhoods.

In watching and listening to James Baldwin, it became apparent that he wasn't easily defined by either polarized end of the movement.  He fell somewhere in between the extremes and his opinions were a fluid orchestration of anger, frustration, optimism, hopeful, inspiration and well articulated political positions on current and historic problems in America.  For all of these reasons, James Baldwin reflects a more "real" reflection of our current reality because his intricate positioning represents diversity within African Americans.  Too often African Americans are limited to a singular entity when the truth is that there is difference in opinion, approach and strategy on every topic.

The Fire Next Time aims to highlight and celebrate diversity through creative reactions to a common problem for African Americans, police brutality.  On the 25th anniversary of the Rodney King beating in LA (3/3/91), The Fire Next Time was released as an original hop hop compilation project with more videos and works of art to follow. 

The project features Qman1, Davon King, Rugz D Bewler, Jay Eightynine, MosEl, J. Manifesto feat. Jahmel Reynolds, Justo feat. King David, Art, Awon & Phoniks and Lafayette Stokely.

Check out The Fire Next Time on SoundCloud or Bandcamp.




Track No. 02 comes from the Jersey native, 8thW1. While thinking about artists to represent Jersey, I came across the Death By Jellyfish project with P.SO and I decided to reach out. The talent and lyrical ability is clear on the project, so when I heard the remix for Home Sweet Home, it automatically fit in BRTH A N8TN and it adds life to the project with a dope message.



Police Brutality!

I couldn't believe it when I saw this, but it shouldn't surprise me that the NYPD beat people outside a peaceful album release party for Monumental, an album I just wrote about in a previous blog entry. Take a look at this video and you be the judge.

I typically don't do breaking news posts, but this is something that everyone needs to know about. This happens all of the time, all over the country. Police use their power to intimidate, beat, murder, shoot, paralyze and scar people for the rest of their lives, but it doesn't only affect the person being assaulted or killed.  It affects the family, the community and in turn the whole system.  When this happens for decades, it has a lasting affect.   So, it is not just a simple misunderstanding of circumstances. When I was 11 years old, my cousin was killed by a police officer. It changed my life because before that, I had no reason to think anything like that would happen. I didn't see anything like that in my life until it was my cousin. Then, Rodney King, Sean Bell, Oscar Grant and I learned more and more about police brutality happening for generations.  It keeps on happening and unless you feel the fire within the beast directed at you, you will not understand what it's like.  I moved across the country to avoid having a car for several reasons.  Being pulled over by the police is a major one.  You can't move and you have to do everything perfect because if you give the wrong police officer one reason to mess with you, they will take it in a heartbeat.

I live in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn.  Since I moved to Brooklyn, I have seen three incidents with the police getting physical/violent with what seemed to be a relatively peaceful situation.  Whenever the police arrest someone in Bed-Stuy, you will see a number of people grab their phones, cameras and start taping it.  It's all you can do and if you watch the Monumental release party footage, you see that the NYPD has found ways to counteract that.  They point their flashlights at the cameras to toy with the exposure, ruining potential photographs.  Luckily, most cameras do stills and video.  So, if  you see something like this, make sure to take video.  Still photos are pointless because they will not give context to the situation.

It's unfortunate that people's lives become the face of police brutality.  There will unquestionably be another case soon and it's unfortunate.  I mean no disrespect by putting Sean Bell's face, or any other victim of police brutality up in this article, but I do it to show that these are real people that don't deserve to be mistreated, intimidated and pressured by the very agency that is supposed to protect them.  My worst fear is that I'm walking with my headphones on and the police try to stop me for some reason.  Walking through Bed-Stuy, that's what I think about, not if someone will mug me or not.  I'm an architect, an artist and a designer, but when I walk around Bed-Stuy, I'm just another black guy in jeans and a fitted hat.  It could happen to me and it could happen to you if you fit the description.  One last thing about fitting the description.  My brother was also pulled out of a car and had a shotgun put to his back because he fit the description of suspects of a reported burglary.  It can happen at any time of the day and you have one choice.  Fight or flight.  People will get beat to death once they're on the ground.  So, it's completely understandable not wanting that to happen.  Protecting your face while  you're on the ground getting kicked in the face can and will be resisting arrest.  Hardly sounds fair to me.

I'm sure to some, this will make me radical.  But, I am against people using available power against people that have no rights to defend themselves.  I could post videos forever to show how many times this has happened, but the documented cases of police brutality only nibbles at the toes of an unreported giant in the corner.  Governor, Chris Christie was be forced to resign for using a state helicopter to fly to his son's baseball game, but it is minuscule in the overall scope of life.  The police officer that shot my cousin, Dan May from the Minneapolis Police Department, not only did not get fired, prosecuted or punished for shooting an unarmed man through the back of his headwith a shotgun.  He was promoted and he has moved his way up the ranks in the police department.  He even received a medal of honor.  You better believe I will never forget that man's name.