Out of the lights,glitter and glam that are the slick veneer of America's premier public playground, Las Vegas, comes the one-man media conglomerate, Pro-Dash aka Brandon Greene. With his second release "Journey to Pro-Sperity," Pro-Dash takes on uson a journey; he takes us on a journey through his life, psyche, career,struggles and through the streets and politics of Las Vegas. Crafted and produced by Pro-Dash, "Journey to Pro-Sperity" is a landmark moment for independent Las Vegas Hip Hop, and one can onlyhope that the world take notice.
Boldly, Pro-Dash's"The Pro-Clamation" lays out his perspective on his origins quite clearly: "I'm from the 702 where they being trying to juice/The Mississippi of the West/where they be flying the noose." Pro-Dash addresses the forgotten nature of Las Vegas as a city, and Nevada as a state in the West Coast Hip Hop equation, and honors the Black migration from Mississippi to Nevada where blacks found the very thing they'd left.
The banger "Fresh Up out the West" featuring James Flye and C-Lown the King of Spades drives home deeply the first p oint. The tracks deep-voiced chorus, catchy West Coast anthem approach, and funky head nod beat leave no questions that Pro Dash is from the West, "Like he never took a step." Pursuing the second point in the cut, "Rock On," Pro-Dash sneaks into his true depth,reflecting on his desire to rock on as a reflection of a people who came to the West to escape the racist oppression of the South, "Just to find the west is still racist."
Of course, Pro-Dash stays diverse with tracks like "Ms. Senorita" and "Get ThatCash." His insight into the nature of a duality that pervades Sin City shines bright in the track "Night and Day. He big ups the world of emcee's and makes clear his place in it in the clever track "MC Squared."
He does a great job of keeping his eyes on the prize in tracks like "Poe Manz Ambition" and "Dreams"featuring the soul voice of Temphest Blue. All in all, this is a very well-thought-out, consistent, lyrically-strong, and catchy album. Pro-Dash keeps his level through and through, and that is –perhaps-- the album's greatest strength; that level could also be the album's biggest weakness. Again, Pro-Dash is responsible for 100% of the production on this album. I'll give him credit. At least he makes sure thatit's done. But the thing is, a versatility of thought and approach is clearly displayed on this album. In the future, I would love to see what Pro-Dash could do with a Traximillion or Rob Flow track. I would be interested to see how Pro-Dash could get down with a sound directly from Mississippi, or on some tracks with a Chicago or Detroit flavor.
The great thing is though, that this is his sophomore effort. I am eager to what his continued development and expansion in music will bring. I recommend checking out the album. You're guaranteed to diga few if not most. Pro-Dash has taken a great step for himself on the "Journey to Pro-Sperity," and might be taking Vegas with him.
If hip hop wants to be a part of the solution to what ails our communities, hip hop must once again become Public Enemy #1. Chuck D understood this well, and we must learn from the model he gives us in his music and in the way he lives his life.
In my hip hop class, I show Spike Lee's film Bamboozled and tell the story of what i believe to be the biggest bamboozle in hip hop history. In the late 80s and early 90s, Chuck D was the voice of resistance in hip hop. Gaining mainstream popularity, Public Enemy enjoyed play on rock stations and sold out arenas with majority white youth in attendance. Hip Hop had crossovered and Chuck D was able to do what Malcolm X never could: tell an uncensored racial truth in a way a segment of white America (youth) could hear and accept it. If middle class youth have any understanding of the class and racial warfare in this country Malcolm X exposed a generation earlier, hip hop finally gave it to them. In order to make this racial connection, Chuck D had what Malcolm X lacked: a beat. Once again, music proved to be a universal language that could transcend all boundaries.
Public Enemy's message was uncompromising and honest; direct and explicit. It was a message that needed to be heard by the mainstream masses, but prior to Public Enemy, it was a message that had been hidden in the softer rhetoric and tunes of Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Curtis Mayfield, and Marvin Gaye (to name a few artists with social commentary songs). Public Enemy's rhetoric and music were much more fierce than what preceded...edgier, louder, and revolutionary.
Around the same time another truth teller hit the rap scene: the "gangsta". Also uncensored and unapologetic, the gangsta embraced the dictates of street life, and in some instances, glorified them. Politicians and the mainstream media declared war on "gangsta rap". Claiming it lead to delinquency in our youth, calls for censorship erupted. Ice T became one of the early "poster boys" targeted for his cop killer track. Dr. Dre, Snoop Doog, and Tupac would all be labeled gangsta rappers and targeted later. From this campaign against gangsta rap, the explicit lyric sticker was born, along with unprecedented rap sales, success, and constant radio play. Rap would take the music throne for years.
While gangsta rappers became mainstream, Chuck D and Public Enemy all but disappeared from the forefront. His prototypes (KRS-one, Arrested Develpment, X-Clan, Brand Nubian, etc.) disappeared with him. If the campaign was against "gangsta rappers" why did strong black militants disappear? Well the bamboozle was complete. The war was never against what they knew and were comfortable with...only what they feared. They had no fear of the gangsta because the gangsta could be coopted and controlled. A true Public Enemy could not.
Observing the full spectrum of the bamboozle I see we never completely embraced its scope. Ice T, the OG, became a cop on one of the most popular tv series, Law and Order. Dr. Dre is still one of the most sought after producers in the music industry. Snoop was even given a reality show about parenthood. And Tupac, the thug the media loved to hate, has been lifted to prophet status in his afterlife.
Hope for Hip Hop
While the visibility of Public Enemy vanished, the spirit never did. My hope in hip hop comes from the same source that might be its fault: its irreverence. Hip Hop is never scared. It has no qualms about challenging authority. That is a good thing. It will take organized efforts to move from being a public nuisance that just makes noise and can be controlled and imprisoned (gangstas) to becoming Public Enemy #1 (militant, strong, influential and revolutionary). It is not enough to reject authority if you are not ready to become it.
Chuck D gave us the model:
Big UP to this collaboration taking the baton...doing what they can do be Arizona's 21st century Public Enemy #1.
You got the mic hip hop...it's time to put up or shut up!
A few months ago, I got into a debate online with a white woman I did not know. She was "scared to death" about the direction of this country and felt Obama and his policies were going to ruin the United States. She was worried about the "new world order" and saw Obama as the face of it. While acknowledging "problems" starting under Bush, she believed things were much worse now under Obama.
Her reasoning epitomized white privilege so I asked her one last question which i had a feeling she would not, or could not answer: When were things "better" in this country? Name one time.
as i suspected, I never heard from her again...
maybe she thought she was being set up for a history lesson...and she was. I wanted to ask her if things were better when the indigenous' lost their land and lives? or Africans and African Americans were enslaved for hundreds of years? Or maybe during the rule of jim crow domestic terrorism? lynching? the great depression? segregation? crack? 50% youth unemployment in cities in the 80s? For her, today's "sky is falling doomsday" is for many "just another day in the U.S.A.". I'm not sure she learned anything that day....but i know i did. James Baldwin's Fire Next Time may be upon us.
“But it is not permissible that the authors of devastation should also be innocent. It is the innocence which constitutes the crime.” – James Baldwin
Before Obama won the election, I knew his presidency would be the opportunity for reckoning. I wrote and said many times that this country was not ready for even the symbolism of a black man as head of state. White supremacists would revolt..and in many ways have (politically, rhetorically, and even in some cases, violently).
While Obama has no real power (or desire) to threaten white supremacy, the symbolism of him being the president is more than many in this country can bare. Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck have decided to employ the same strategy that has been utilized throughout this country's existence to protect white supremacy and the status quo power structure: stroke white fears.
Bacon's Rebellion: The Writing on the Wall
Early slavery was "indentured servitude" for many Africans and Europeans that were brought in bondage (some kidnapped). Many worked for years and then earned freedom. That is why there were free Africans in VA and other areas from early on (some of which even went on to own slaves themselves (but that's another story). Chattel slavery "for life" as it came to be was a result of this fear of the poorer masses (white and black) coming together and threatening the planter class (elite). Bacon's Rebellion in 1676 was a symbol of their greatest fear and THAT led to "African" based "slave for life" system, and white supremacy as an ideology to keep poor whites supporting a system that never benefited them...they were taught one thing: "at least you are not black".
And the pattern has been used ever since...Birth of a Nation was the visualization of white fear post Civil-War. Reconstruction time was a very progressive time for the African American community, including land ownership (some of which was seized from confederate former slave owners) education, & political representation (to the point we have not seen since - why you often here preface "first Black _____ since Reconstruction...etc.). Black progress was real and Black wallstreet (Tulsa OK) and Mound Bayou (Mississippi) were models of it ... but white America was NOT ready and domestic terrorism as a strategy was implemented (KKK, lynching, white mobs and finally Jim Crow by law for a century). Trust me, history does repeat itself when we do not learn the REAL lesson... these days, I hear talk of repealing the 14th amendment?! exactly...
Obama's presidency has been about nothing BUT the ongoing racial struggle in this country...it is the latest chapter if you will. I want to take a minute to give the historical context...i will use black history but this can also be done with Native Ameican History, Chicano history, and so on...
With progress made, there is always backlash...
TO secure our freedom: 1. David Walker's Appeal (calling for enslaved Africans to secure freedom by any means) 2. Bacon's Rebellion (class based revolt)
BACKLASH: 1. racialization of slavery (from indentured servitude to slave for life) 2. black codes for non-enslaved African Americans
THEN WE: 1. Abolition movement to end slavery (from reform tactics like pressure though press and courts to radical revolts to moral religious tactics)..led to whole free state/slave state - congressional politics of representation 3/5 clause etc.
THEN to secure freedom we: POST Civil War - RECONSTRUCTION ERA 1. Federal FREEDMAN'S Bureau 2. gains in education, land, and political representation
BACKLASH: 1. Domestic Terrorism, birth of KKK 2. Legalization of Jim Crow
THEN WE TRIED: 1. Booker T. - building institutions but not fighting racism, 2. DuBois - NAACP, tried reforming system, holding to its ideals, 3. Garvey - actually inspired by Booker T., self determination, building black institutions and economic empowerment with black money not white donors like Booker T. had
BACKLASH: 1. J Edgar Hoover hired first black agent to infiltrate UNIA. 2. Black leaders pitted against each other as tactic (Washington v. DuBOis, Garvey v. DuBois) 3. Internal strife (movements brought down from within/tactic used in revolts earlier too)
THEN we HAD: 1. CRM - Emmitt Till, montgomery bus boycott - masses organizing, SNCC, BPP, etc
BACKLASH: 1. COINTELPRO 2. MLK v. MALCOLM,take sides (tactic divide and conquer which Malcolm X later rejected)
THEN: hip hop - voice for youth coming of post-CR era
BACKLASH: commodfied - frame one dimensional and sell for profit while reinforcing stereotypes..see BAMBOOZLED
BACKLASH: 1. tea party 2. "liberal" squabbling on politics instead of organizing actions (which i argue is very purposeful and again refer to Malcolm X speech on foxes and wolves..liberals and conservatives) 3. the fear of a brown planet (immigration debate, 14th amendment, etc.)
I write all this to basically point out that we have to make sure we know not only what we are fighting for (freedom, justice, sustenance)...but WHO we are fighting for (people's class), and who we are fighting against (elite)...because there have been many times in history we have been pitted against each other as a tactic when we could have united and been a powerful force for our own freedom...we can either learn lessons of history, or continue to repeat them...
Ms. Sherrod breaks it down plainly on why understanding and dealing with white supremacy is critical to building class consciousness...it has not only been A strategy but it has been THE strategy of the owning class since before this country formed...back to colonial days...
We cannot be free until they are free - James Baldwin
For working people to come together (again - see Bacon) they must first recognize the humanity they share...and white supremacy is the roadblock denying that truth. That is what the white middle class has done for this system...people will continue to support a system that only benefits 1% until they recognize that they are not a part of that 1%...they are a part of the 99% masses across the globe of all hues...
so i say all that to say this:
If you really study the struggle of black history and the use of white supremacy to keep iniquity alive, as i have said many times before...even the symbolic aspect of a "black" man being the president of this racist empire and how it is driving white supremacists crazy was change enough for me to believe in...lol.
Obama's presidency is an opportunity for this country if we seize it..Before Obama rattled white supremacists awake, they were able to hide behind institutional racism and now they have to come from behind the Bushes (pun intended), show their true color (pun intended) and let the fall out begin (AZ, tea party, 14th amendment now etc)...which will FORCE US to do what we have to do to ...FIGHT FOR OUR FREEDOM...and THAT is what i've been waiting for...The Fire Next Time... it's time and i've been ready..
It feels like we are at a crossroads in history...but for those that study history, it also feels like we have been here many times before...and will be here indefinitely if we do not truly learn those lessons of history once and for all.
Frederick Douglass said it BEST:
Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.
The TRUE power and threat that affects us all today = CORPORATE FASCISM!! I look at this latest "economic crisis" (crisis for the masses, payoff for the corporate fascists) and while disgusted, am hardly surprised. The corporate takeover of our politics (lobbyists), health care, SEC, media, prisons, & war (blackwater) where only private enterprise and profit matter will take us all down if we do not RISE UP against a system where 6% own most of the world assets while 94% barely survive. People Power must be sustained!
THE 21st Century SCENARIO
We are all in a race to the bottom. These reader comments in cyberspace summarize the 21st century struggle:
comment from one reader: China has "communist controlled capitalism". This is where the masses work very hard to eke out a living and survive while all the profit and wealth is funneled to a small group of individuals comprising less than 1% of the population.
America has "corporately controlled capitalism." This is where the masses work very hard to eke out a living and survive while all the profit and wealth is funneled to a small group of individuals comprising less than 1% of the population.
Explain it to me like I was a six-year-old, what's the difference exactly.
I think I now understand why our corporations get along with China so well.....
A tweet from @vtocce: Everything shifted to Asia. In 10 years China & India's consumer class will dwarf the United States. USA will be a show room.
Not only do we live in a world of imports/exports, we live in a world of outsourcing and insourcing (where people = commodities). Nothing is safe in this race to the bottom. While the U.S. has completely lost the manufacturing market to outsourcing, insourcing (ex. teachers and techs from India) is also changing future possibilities for work and existence in the U.S. and all over the world. The American empire of the last century is never to return.
What globalization did was create a world where the American worker and consumer became expendable...When Americans can let go of their "exceptionalism" and FINALLY understand this, then they will realize that all they are arguing over is pointless....and hopefully they will RISE UP against the true threat: multinational rule.
But we must also understand this in historical context. Today's corporate fascism was yesterday's imperialism, yesteryear's colonialism, and yester-century's feudalism (monarchies)...the faces may change, but the dynamics (1% rule/ all else struggle) stay the same. And if we know and study history...we know how this script goes and actually how it always ends...people power overthrows one system of iniquity and then lets the next system of iniquity take hold. Sustaining people power is where we have failed. We either we learn the lessons history teaches..or we repeat them.
THE ENEMY'S STRATEGY: Alienation, Framing and Miseducation
Marx, Gramsci and Woodson got it right a century plus ago. They must be studied in order to develop OUR strategy.
The elite keep their position not by force but by manipulation. The system survives because the masses support it...as laborers...and consumers...and mostly...as survivors of it.
This IS the system: get people to look to leaders (the very people oppressing) instead of within (ourselves, our communities, our power) for change.
We have been taught powerlessness: to buy into a system that was never set up to work for us..but we buy into it, get hope, believe, then get despondent, then cynical which leads to inaction because "nothing changes"..that is how the system teaches us to buy into our own powerlessness and how it keeps status quo power dynamics in order. If we understand that, no one would have ever looked to Obama or any "one" leader for change.
We live now in a corporate fascist state where our "democratic elected representatives" are bought and sold; and without an active citizenry, this will remain the case. Right now, most citizens are too busy surviving (also part of the system) so it becomes true that consciousness is indeed a luxury few can afford. Focusing on leaders instead of those citizens that need support becomes a part of the trap. Leaders can't bring change...never could...only WE THE PEOPLE can.
We have to move pass our alienation and taught powerlessness via miseducation and get us ALL to be about OUR freedom.
1% controlling resources at the expense of the masses is as old as civilizations. The Roman Empire was not less corrupt than the US empire...The Colonizing Empires that enslaved generations were not any less powerful in their time or any less corrupt than the corporate fascists of today...NOW, once we admit that we scapegoat ("the other") to shirk our responsibility to ACT then we can actually progress.
Those that don't concentrate on organizing the masses but instead focus on the easy (blaming powerful people) believe in the lie that the elite have sold us via hegemony for centuries...big bad boogeyman run the world and we're all just pawns. well, if we internalize that, the power elite wins again; they don't even have to do anything because we do it for them...convince others of their own powerlessness. and we become pawns of the system.
Example: Walmart now claims 4 of the 10 ten spots for richest in America, but without the workers who work there, and the consumers who shop there, there is no Walmart. There is no them...there is JustUS...once we understand that, we will achieve JUSTICE.
The only way power dynamics will ever change is when the PEOPLE stop stating the obvious (power doesn't care about us) and start ACTING to TAKE CARE OF OURSELVES.
OUR FOCUS: Marx was Right
For working people to come together, we must first recognize the humanity we share (see essay From Bacon to Obama). In this world order, white supremacy is the roadblock denying that truth. People will continue to support a system that only benefits 1% until they recognize that they are not a part of that 1%; they are a part of the 99% masses across the globe of all hues...the People's class.
Not only must we fight alienation and learned powerlessness, we must fight fragmentation. It will take class consciousness to sustain People Power! It is difficult to unite when we are so fragmented ideologically, regionally, politically, and religiously...but again, Marx was right. The masses of the world are united in their material needs and that is where our focus should remain....MATERIAL SUSTAINABILITY FOR ALL.
This should be our starting and ending point in all battles...and maybe this time, we can finally win the war and avoid the 22nd century edition.
Up, you mighty race, accomplish what you will. - Marcus Garvey
Look for me in the whirlwind or the storm, look for me all around you, for, with God's grace, I shall come and bring with me countless millions of black slaves who have died in America and the West Indies and the millions in Africa to aid you in the fight for Liberty, Freedom and Life. - Marcus Garvey
We MUST remember. His birthday was yesterday, August 17th.
His birthday was August 2nd. He was one of the greatest writers and thinkers of the 20th century. In his honor..and for our benefit....we should hear him ...in his own words.
If you have a free hour (lol), this is MUST watch video. James Baldwin's message in this and The Fire Next Time becomes even more powerful given today's political climate...and eerie in its accuracy (foreshadowing). All should really peep this...
Get to know James Baldwin...and the understanding he communicate in the last few minutes is why he is so important to know...
“Take no one’s word for anything, including mine – but trust your experience.” – James Baldwin
James Baldwin on What's Important
“Color is not a human or personal reality; it is a political reality.” – James Baldwin
“This is why the most dangerous creation of any society is that man who has nothing to lose.” – James Baldwin
“If we do not dare everything, the fulfillment of that prophecy, re-created from the Bible in song by a slave, is upon us: God gave Noah the rainbow sign, No More water, the fire next time!” – James Baldwin
History Matters...and in the last year we have lost three important truth tellers of the U.S. experience marking an end of an era: John Hope Franklin (March 2009), Ronald Takaki (May 2009), and Howard Zinn (January 2010). if you have not read their work, I recommend you do...and start today.
Read them in the order listed...those that know me will know why :-)
To evolve, we must take the baton from them...and run.
Apologies for the long hiatus. I hope to keep this blog active again, if not with essays like i did in the past, with at least short posts for contemplation that will hopefully generate ongoing dialogue. My FT jobs as mother and teacher keep me very busy, but i will try not to abandon this blog for such a long period of time again. I appreciate all the support and love :-)