Sunday, April 10, 2016

I Still Love H.E.R. - A Wanja Lange Education

As an on-again-off-again rhymespitter, I can say that I definitely could’ve used some key people in my corner from the very start.  Particularly because I’m not on that gangsta/trap/genocide chit and actually spit real lyrics to uplift my people and my culture--- I definitely could’ve used the advice and input of somebody who understands THAT kinda Hip Hop, somebody who knows how to promote rooted music in an age where so many fans only want some gibberish to nod their heads and get handcuffed to.

With that being said, let me introduce ya’ll to one of the coolest people I’ve never met in person.  Wanja Vonya Lange, owner of the ‘I Still Love H.E.R.’ blog ( and the I Still Love H.E.R. Promotion Agency.  I have NO IDEA how I came across this woman, but she’s definitely one of the highlights of my Facebook timeline.

Friday, April 8, 2016

NEW MUSIC - 'Slave to the Night' by Woodman [prod. Nino Ice]

"Graffiti on the sidewalk, that's the word on the street/
I usually keep to myself; my words are discreet/
But now it's urgent for me, to have a purpose on beats/
I'm the voice of a generation that has to learn how to speak/
Up and then strive, on this ride I'm hoping to rise/
Clockwork orange--- I'm here to open up eyes/
Keep wasting time and you'll be regretting it in the end/
You can repent but there will still remain things, that will never mend/"

-Woodman, 'Slave to the Night'

Ya know what that is?  That's urgency.  Not enough MCs spit with that.  The realization that their words aren't just words, they're lifelines.  Somebody out there is listening for the right syllables to come together to motivate them beyond mediocrity.  I know I am.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

NEW MUSIC - 'Wiseman' by Stratuzy [prod. EMarWill]

Now, why would I push a song called Wiseman on a blogsite about education?  Hmm...

"...And I rise like a wiseman, eye on the prize, third eye stay plottin/
...Not a wise guy, rather be a wiseman, this is my time, hope you noticin who I am/"

'Nuff said, right?  If ya still not making connections, that means you need a little more time in the study hall.  I love the vibe of this track--- I love the mandolin bringing the Eastern flair, the simple hi-hat, the 808 snare.  And the lyricism is a given; Stratuzy's a bright young man, no real need to worry there.  There's a whole EP project to follow this single coming this May, and I'm hoping the whole joint mimics this soundscape.  *fingers crossed*

Shoutout for Stratuzy for contributing more positivity to the Augusta culture and to Hip Hop as a whole.  Need more of this and less body bags.  One Love.  #StopTheViolence

Saturday, February 20, 2016

NEW MUSIC - '911 Freestyle' by Stratuzy

Augusta GA's got so much fresh talent bubblin' on deck it's not even funny.  Over the legendary Wyclef and Mary J. collab '911', rapper Stratuzy offers us a lyrical exercise of a freestyle.  He refers to himself as the "21st Century Odysseus" while taking us on a journey through his thought process.  Enjoy this cut and stay tuned for more from this young brotha who hails from the same camp that brought us Truez, Kumar, and AE.

Monday, February 15, 2016

The Experienced Listener Presents: 'Live From Shirley' by Jay Bussie, 2/15/16

Yes… PNCLBRKR still rocks with Jay Bussie and the Young Scholar Movement.  I’m always excited to hear new material from this brotha, and I recently was fortunate  enough to be greeted with his new 6-track EP, Live From Shirley, (Available on iTunes!!!)

From the time I heard the intro Off the Top  I was glad to hear that this was the same ol’ Bussie.  Specifically, Bussie has created a unique sound for himself; the best way I can describe it is, “Make it sound like you’ve been here before”--- the vibe is kinda like the owner of a speakeasy that’s been open serving customers for years.  A lavish sound, but not as arrogant as some others who’ve tried it.  I don’t know who did the sampling for this track, but they really pulled some unique elements together; if I didn’t know better, I’d say there's some gospel harmonies sampled into the backdrop, with some near-Go-Go style drums in the foreground, and even a little Calypso here and there.  But we didn’t come here for beats we came here for Bussie; what’s he been up to?

I’m just imaging what turned a Shirley nigga so arrogant/
Without question it was the Paris trip/

Word?!  I’m always glad to see our people getting out of the area to see the rest of the world!  Perhaps this is where the more refined sound is coming from!

Nevertheless, on the very next track, Child of Pavement, Bussie lets us know that as he’s gone abroad what he HASN’T done is forget his homebase.  Over a much more street-conventional beat, he spits:

Due to the paper they making/
These rappers be thinkin they greater, But that’s a debate/
Cause what’s on my plate,/
The crew and I did without any favors/
Without any labels, without any majors/
Got in the game and stayed in our lane/
Created a legacy it was our destiny/
Soon as it came, nobody changed/
Nobody switched, kept it legit/
Fake homies get there to stay for a minute/
As soon as we finished they thought it was ending/
Public opinion about us diminished/
But same way we got it the same way we get it/
Had to come back to the streets wit a vengeance/
Hit up the homies and told ‘em let’s get it/
Started a business and stayed independent/

…I LOVE IT.  I’m very pro-Black-owned businesses, and that last line reminds me of Tristan Walker,the 30-year-old founder of Bevel  men’sproducts, who has refused to sell his company to Schick, Gillette, and Proctor& Gamble.  Read about him, he’s got the right idea…  

I could talk about any track on the Live from Shirley EP, they’re ALL dope.  But I’m gonna bypass Homecoming for some different subject matter found on track 4, Confident.  Young brothas need to really listen to this track because Bussie drops some jewels about the right kinda attitude to have when finding one’s way in the world.  Peep this hook:

Everything I been through made me confident/
Everything I been through made me confident/
I been through a lot of shit/
They can keep the fame and acknowledgement/
Everything I been through made me confident/
Never been concerned/
Never been concerned with the common shit/
Everything I been through made me confident/
Shootouts to scholarships/
Crazy I was scared to be dominant/
But everything I been through made me confident/

That’s it!  It’s all about gaining experience, just like David in the Bible from a shepherd to a champion to a king.  It’s really not about the standing or the falling, but about the learning process--- what you take away from every experience.  And speaking of experience, one thing I love about this track is that Bussie uses a new delivery that I haven’t heard up to now; smooth as always, but he kinda swaggers into all of his syllables and rides the beat more comfortably and more nonchalantly than usual.  Nothing like a little maturation!

I’m at a point in my life where I can look back at mistakes I’ve made and show the marks they left on me; fortunately, we melanin types tend to have keloid tendencies, so my scars heal twice over.  And after listening to Bussie’s Scars, I can say that he likewise knows the experience.  Scars is a track about missteps he’s made along the way, but also a track about his refusal to be intimidated going forward, and his commitment to continue to pursue the things that he wants by… pursuing the things that he wants.  ‘Sounds redundant, but I know some people who need to understand that simple principle:  nothing you want in life should be expected to come to you--- as Bussie says on the track, “If you want it, go get it, how Hazel raised me.” Pray about it, inquire about it, work for it, get close to it, whatever you gotta do, just GO.  Period.  And sometimes it’s not a straight path or an easy journey; but if you survive, you’ll recover, and you can make a dope track about ya scars on the other side of success, just like Bussie does here.

Speaking of maturation and such, I read an article recently where they say folks around my age--- early to mid-30’s--- tend to have less and less capacity for listening to music.  Crazy as it sounds, it’s kinda true; I rarely sit through entire albums like I used to, even good ones.  At the same time, there are some deserving young artists out there still grinding for their spot, so I’ll be doing my best to get them some spotlight whenever I can muster up enough concentration and patience.  Jay Bussie, keep at it, I appreciate that hard work!  On that last track My Life, when you say, “If you give me a mic, I’ll give you my life”, that’s a beautiful exchange.  Nothing but #RESPECT for you and your art.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Taking Back SATurdays--- College-Readiness Exams, 12/30/2015

If you want to make money in education… start a standardized testing company.  Standardized testing is the greatest education hustle since malfunctioning copy machines.

I woke up the other morning to an article from the Washington Post:  “The SAT, now the No. 2college test, pushesto reclaim supremacy”. Check out some of these awesome excerpts:

“The SAT, once the nation’s dominant college admission exam, fell behind the ACT in recent years after its rival locked up huge swaths of the market…” 
“Now the SAT’s owner, the College Board, has mounted a comeback in its bid to regain supremacy…”
“The competition between the ACT and SAT…”
“After the SAT’s last revision, in 2005, which added a required writing assessment, it lost market share…”
“…state officials had decided to drop free ACT testing for high school juniors and instead give 11th-graders the SAT under a three-year contract worth $14.3 million…”
…’Dominant’?  ‘Rival’?  ‘Comeback’?  ‘Supremacy’?  ‘Competition’?  ‘Market share’?  ‘14.3 MILLION’?

I would just like to take a moment to say:  Nick Anderson, I don’t know you, but I freaking LOVE you for writing that article.  Don’t worry, you didn’t do anything wrong; you just provided us with something to chew on.  Ladies and gentlemen, how would you feel if you learned that the tests you and your children so regard are more concerned with competition for lucrative contracts… than with enhancing the educational process?  When you think about testing, you think about data and diagnostics, right?  But what if the primary ‘D’ word that these companies are concerned with… is DOLLARS.

…Think I’m exaggerating?  Fair enough; I hope I am.  Keep reading.

The first time I questioned the role of standardized testing companies  in education was my high school junior year, back in 1999-2000.  My mother, who was an educator, told me that the board of education was introducing test prep classes, and students were taking them to boost their test scores (I think she was nudging me to try to surpass my own score, which wasn’t half bad, btw).  I was puzzled.  “So, if the students are getting assistance before they take the test, then… *light bulb* what is the test actually measuring?  Isn’t that like attempting to measure one’s vertical with stilts on?” 

Sure, it’s not the testing companies’ faults that students were finding themselves in need of assistance; heck, many of the students didn’t really need assistance to pass, they just needed assistance to pass with flying colors--- to go from appearing college-ready to appearing to be Ivy League material (keyword ‘appearing’).  But that’s when I saw… the test prep books.  “From the makers of the [insert name of standardized test here]…”     

Timeout!!  So, they make a test that measures 'college-readiness', then, when students don’t make the score that they wish to make, they print and sell materials to help the students boost their test presence.  And I say “boost their test presence”, for two reasons:  1) because the materials aren’t about subject mastery, they’re about test mastery; 2) because the students aren’t testing to demonstrate their college-readiness, they’re testing to generate college-readiness scores, whether they’re actually college-ready or not.  At the end of all things, the testing companies make money hand-over-fist--- on one end from signing million-dollar contracts, on the other end from selling study materials.

…What a HUSTLE!  Well-played!

And yet, tests like the SAT are found to be lacking, constantly needing to be adjusted.  The SAT started off on a 1600 point scale, then went to 2400, and now it’s back to 1600.  It started off with math and verbal, then it added writing, and now it’s cutting back on the verbal.  It started off as the Scholastic Aptitude Test, and then it became the Scholastic… [Something-Else] Test, I’m too lazy to look it up right now.  We talk about these college-readiness tests as if they’re some kinda learning essentials, or infallible measuring tools, or sacred monuments in the Temple of Education… but they’re not.  If they were being used as diagnostic tools, then when substantial numbers of students found themselves lacking, the test-makers’ concern wouldn’t be selling study materials for the tests; it would be helping schools create more effective classrooms.  Their concern would be investing in the schools themselves to help improve the classroom experience so that students wouldn’t need test-prep classes or test-mastery materials.  There’s a difference between raising intelligence and raising test scores.

I say all this to pose a question:  are standardized tests like the SAT and ACT really fit for determining college-readiness?  Near the end of Anderson’s article he quotes Governor Jack Markell as saying, “Even though people are getting sick of tests, they are desperate for opportunity.”  Perhaps that’s the problem--- why are tests like these so directly connected to opportunity?  According to CollegeAtlas.Org, 70% ofAmericans will attend a 4-year college, and of that 70%, less than 2/3 willgraduate.  How many of that 2/3 were required to take tests like the SAT as a key to college entry?  Is 2/3’s not a majority?  How does an effective standardized test result in a majority of 4-year college students turning out not to be college material?

Don’t get me wrong, I think tests have their place--- as diagnostic tools to help measure student growth and target student learning.  But as barriers to college entry?  Barriers that don’t even filter the 2/3’s of the 4-year college students who don’t graduate?  I say give those high school students their Saturdays* back and find a better way to spend $14 million.

*Not sure how it is across the country, but where I'm from students normally take college-readiness exams on Saturdays.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

New Music --- 'All The Dough' by NoTiQ feat. B.Ware & Zewdy (Produced by Siiren), 12/24/2015

It’s Christmas Eve, and I’m sitting here watching a documentary about FreakNik.  …Yeah, I know; be like that sometimes.  Blame this hot weather and these thunderstorms rolling through the Southeast; also blame DJ Kizzy Rock, I follow him on Facebook, peeped game straight from his page.  ¯\_()_/¯

Left to Right: B.Ware, Zewdy, and NoTiQ
Speaking of Atlanta tho, I mentioned to ya’ll a few times here and there that my younger sib Siiren was around the A-Town working out some things on the beats and production side of the game.  She put me on to some up-and-coming area talent:  rappers NoTiQ & B.Ware and the Ethiopian songstress Zewdy Awalom (and all her beautiful hair).

Welp, good news!  The bringing together of those four musical elements has yielded fruit in the form of a new single by NoTiQ.  The cut, entitled ‘All the Dough’, was recently debuted on Ridin’ Dirty Radio and features B.Ware & Zewdy with Siiren on the instrumental.  Peep peep: