Mark Your Calendars: The Elks Lodge Summit!

Elks Lodge Photo

By: Gus Navarro

A few months back, Back Beat Magazine co-founder, Ella Campbell, organized an open jam session for instrumentalists, vocalists and MCs to play music together in a night of improvisation. Lucky for us, it’s going down all over again at the Elks Pratt Lodge in Ann Arbor, Michigan this Friday, September 19th. Featuring a quintet made up of Judson Branam IV (drums), Ella (saxophone and EWI), Olin Clark (guitar), Nathan Flanders (keys) and Endea Owens (bass), the “Elks Lodge Summit” is guaranteed to be a night of good times, jazz, hip-hop, dancing and creativity.

The night will consist of the house band getting a feel for each other as they play various jazz tunes from some of the sax greats such as John Coltrane and Joe Henderson. From there, they will transition into the portion of the night where MCs and vocalists will be invited to take part in the music making process while the band covers artists like OutKast, Slum Village, John Legend and J*Davey. One of the coolest things about this event is how jazz and hip-hop will be seamlessly mixed and mashed, creating something special.

In anticipation of this second event, we had a chance to speak with Ella about some of the details. First we asked what her thoughts were regarding the purpose of the Summit:

“Some jazz musicians love performing with emcees, and some emcees love performing with live musicians. Bringing the two groups together and creating a nurturing atmosphere for both is one of the goals. I also want to bridge the musical language and genre induced barrier between hip-hop artists and live musicians, just like they’re doing at Revive Music now and how The Roots have been since their beginning. I think that jumping right in and creating the music together is an exciting way to do that.”

Hip-hop and jazz have been connected from the first cyphers and block parties in New York City and this continues to be the case. The best thing about this event is that you will actually get a chance to hear that connection being made.

Check out the quintet covering OutKast’s “So Fresh, So Clean” as Rafael De La Ghetto and Blas FaMe trade verses.

When asked about what she is looking forward to most, Ella responded, “Elks is a place that many musicians feel comfortable testing out new material, and the audience is always receptive to whatever we throw at them. I can’t wait to see what experiments brew up this time around.”

Friday night is sure to feature a slew of killin’ tunes and a collaborative atmosphere that will be inspirational and fun to be a part of. If you’re near Ann Arbor area on Friday and are looking for a good time, come out to the Elks Pratt Lodge. It’s going down and you won’t want to miss this.

On this recording you can hear the band laying down Big Boi’s “Shutterbug” with Rafael De La Ghetto tearing it up on the mic once again.

Event Info:

Elks Pratt Lodge
220 Sunset Rd
Ann Arbor, MI 48103

Venue is cash only.
Food and drinks available.
No hats once you get inside.

To listen to more recordings from the first night, check out Ella’s Soundcloud page.

RSVP on the Facebook Event page, here. 

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Keeping Your Mind Focused: Michael Brown and Ferguson

Photo credit: america.aljazeera.com

In the early afternoon of August 9th, a young black male, eighteen-year-old Michael Brown, was gunned down by police in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri. The exact reason as to why officer Darren Wilson drew his weapon and fired at the teenager remains unknown, and there are different versions of what actually happened. The shooting occurred on a Saturday and by Monday people all over the country had taken to social media to organize vigils and huge group photos in honor of the slain teen and in protest. The Twitter hashtag #handsupdontshoot became a way of connecting people and is a reference to the moment just before he was killed in broad daylight. The residents of Ferguson, a predominantly African-American community, have taken to the streets, voicing their anger, frustration and fear because of this specific incident but also because of the atrocious and inexcusable history of police brutality, oppression and hostility that has been directed towards the black community time and time again. The images of police, armed to the teeth with gas masks, bullet proof vests, assault rifles and tear gas, coming out of Ferguson are reminiscent of the 50’s and 60’s. These were the days of legalized segregation and Bull Connor, the Commissioner of Public Safety in Birmingham, Alabama, when white people opposed and literally fought against racial equity. Three weeks later, what has transpired in Ferguson is bigger than Michael Brown and represents much larger structural issues within the United States. Because of this, we acknowledge that this story is continually developing and there is still more information that will come to the fore. Our attempt here is to highlight some key articles and videos that help to give context to this story and that we found helpful to understanding the history and broader systems of inequality and brutality that are clearly on display here. Additionally, we hope to give examples of where hip-hop fits into all of this. While this piece may not fully encompass everything that has gone on, we feel that the following articles are crucial in working towards an understanding of what people are feeling, thinking and wondering as the story continues to evolve.

“America Is Not For Black People” The Concourse August 12th, 2014
http://theconcourse.deadspin.com/america-is-not-for-black-people-1620169913/+GregHoward1

Written on the first Tuesday following the shooting, Greg Howard revisits the different accounts of what happened before Brown was shot. He then speaks on the militarization of police since 9/11, the deaths of Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, Jonathan Ferrell and Eric Garner, as well as the demonization of Michael Brown. As he explains here:

“Part of the reason we’re seeing so many black men killed is that police officers are now best understood less as members of communities, dedicated to keeping peace within them, than as domestic soldiers. The drug war has long functioned as a full-employment act for arms dealers looking to sell every town and village in the country on the need for military-grade hardware, and 9/11 made things vastly worse, with local police departments throughout America grabbing for cash to better defend against any and all terrorist threats. War had reached our shores, we were told, and police officers needed weaponry to fight it.”

In this article, Howard expertly links the death of Michael Brown to the greater societal and historical context of racial oppression and fear of terrorism that continues to haunt the United States.

Ferguson Pastor: This Is Not A Race Issue All Things Considered August 14th, 2014
http://www.npr.org/2014/08/14/340422502/ferguson-pastor-this-is-not-a-race-issue-this-is-a-human-issue?utm_source=npr_email_a_friend&utm_medium=email&utm_content=20140817&utm_campaign=storyshare&utm_term=

This is one of the most powerful things you will most likely listen to involving the story of what has been happening in Ferguson. In this interview, Melissa Block talks with Ferguson preacher Reverend Willis Johnson about a picture that was published of him in the Washington Post. In the photo, Johnson is seen speaking with, and holding back, a young black man from joining in on the protests going on around them. The young man is clearly beside himself, a mixture of anger, fear and pain etched across his face. Johnson talks about his own experiences growing up in the United States as an African-American male, what that has meant throughout his life and that to him, what has been happening in Ferguson is beyond race. Listen to this interview because when Rev. Johnson speaks, you will hear how real racism is and how much it hurts.

“The Deaths of Black Men in America” Melissa Harris-Perry August 16th, 2014
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/16/melissa-harris-perry-black-men-killed-by-police_n_5684588.html

In this video segment, MSNBC host, Melissa Harris-Perry discusses the fact that black men have been killed by police officers at an alarming rate in just the past decade alone. As she points out, “From 2006 to 2012 a white police officer killed a black person at least twice a week in this country.” To go along with this, Perry looks to the 1857 Supreme Court decision in Dred Scott v Sanford as the origin of many of the issues that we face today. In 1857, it was ruled that African-Americans were not citizens and were never intended to be by the authors of the Constitution.

“How The Rest of the World Sees Ferguson” The Washington Post August 18th, 2014
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2014/08/18/how-the-rest-of-the-world-sees-ferguson/

With this article, Adam Taylor and Rick Noack share examples of how other countries are covering the death of Michael Brown. This article is helpful in trying to get a better sense of how this news story fits within the larger global context. The article touches on coverage in countries such as Britain, Germany, Turkey, Afghanistan, Russia, Iran and China. The various publications have their own agendas and opinions on what has been happening in Ferguson in large part because of their country’s relationship with the United States. Predictably, much of the coverage has been focused on the racial dynamics and images of police that are impossible to ignore.

Killer Mike Interview on CNN August 20th, 2014
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bFfrNFkP2do

Atlanta native, Killer Mike, has always had a knack for saying what needs to be said in a somewhat controversial and in your face way. In short, he is a gangsta when it comes to expounding on socio-political topics such as Reaganomics and the effect that the War on Drugs has had on black and brown communities. In a conversation with CNN, he has a lot to say about police in the United States. We learn that his father was actually a police officer. Because of this, he holds police in high regard and acknowledges the difficulty of the job. Police as he says, “Are blue collar guys.” The issue is, however, that police are typically no longer from the community they serve. Instead, the culture of policing has changed since 9/11. Here, Killer Mikes forces us to think about what it would look like if police actually protected and served their communities.

“Black Life Is Treated with Short Worth”: Talib Kweli & Rosa Clemente on Michael Brown Shooting Democracy Now August 22nd, 2014
http://www.democracynow.org/blog/2014/8/22/black_life_is_treated_with_short

In this twenty minute interview, Talib Kweli and Rosa Clemente discuss many of the key issues that surround the situation in Ferguson. First, they recount their own personal story from the previous night’s protest in which they thought they might see another young man killed. Despite her twenty years of work as an activist, Clemente refers to it as, “the most terrifying moment of my life.” From there, Kweli and Clemente express their opinions on the use of social media within the context of the protests, what happens when we focus on the looting that has taken place, the fact that women are also being terrorized at the hands of what is referred to as “a militarized police apparatus” and that the death of Michael Brown has the potential to shift the narrative on how the police are viewed within the United States. In her final thoughts, a deeply moved and passionate Clemente asks crucial questions:

“And I’m sick and tired of this. Like Fannie Lou Hamer, I am sick and tired of this. We have so much life to live and a limited time amount to do it. And every day, the older my daughter gets, or any of my friends, all I can think about is, is this world better? Because it’s just really not. And what is going to happen to our children? What does this do to other people in the community? How does this affect white people that are anti-racism, working against racism? All of this has been so lost in this.”

Kweli and Clemente are both legends because of the work they do as social justice activists in and outside of the hip-hop community, making this interview a key component in the attempt to understand the broader scope of what has happened since the death of Michael Brown.

“Race/ Off” The Daily Show August 26th, 2014
http://thedailyshow.cc.com/videos/ufqeuz/race-off

In true Jon Stewart fashion, he dismantles what Fox News has said in the past few weeks following the shooting of Michael Brown. In this 10 minute clip, we see everything that is absurd about the right wing news channel and the stupidity of their anchors (I’m lookin’ at you, Bill). Stewart is a master of using humor while talking about issues that are humorless. At some point, if we don’t laugh at the ignorance that is being thrown in our face (while also challenging it), it may destroy us. Despite the jokes, the reality of racism in the United States cuts through with hard hitting honesty that isn’t funny, in any way, shape or form. We are reminded that, “People of color, no matter their socioeconomic standing, face obstacles in this country with surprising grace” and that, “race is there and it is a constant. You’re tired of hearing about it? Imagine how fucking exhausting it is living it.”

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Bonus Cut Poetry: “At the Water Cooler” By Abby Conklin

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This is Bonus Cut Poetry, a series that features original poems by Bonus Cut staff, artists and YOU! In this series, our mission is to bring people together in poetry, share stories and display wonderful artistic pieces. If you would like to have your poems in the next Bonus Cut Poetry installment, just email us at bonuscut@gmail.com

This installment features Bonus Cut’s own Abby Conklin.

At the Water Cooler
By: Abby Conklin

I do not know what kind
of jokes you make about
the people you work
with.  Maybe their anxiety.
Maybe one OCD gum-chewer’s
jaws, or the leaver-of-stained-
coffee-mugs’ trail through the break
room.  There’s a lot to be said
for the things that make us human.
Which is likely why
my coworkers and I stood
at the edge of the indoor
track today, at our students’
summer olympics, cracking
jokes about the rattling nature
of the starting gun.
These kids don’t run
this kind of race when they hear
that shit! we laughed.  They run
as fast as they can from 
wherever it came from!  Jokes
that aren’t jokes when you’ve heard
your coworker wish for a house
in Connecticut.  Talked about a window
looking out at her sons playing
in a back yard, instead of pounding down
her auto-locked front door, trying
to get away from playground gunshots.

 

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Pushing Tracks: “Paradise (prod. God Level Music)” by Cam Minor

When you listen to Cam Minor, you can’t help but appreciate how stoic he is behind the mic. This isn’t to say that he’s not commanding, but that lush and laid back delivery is such a huge staple it literally defines him as the MC he is. Of course, this is a good thing. In fact, it’s why his music is so appealing. As outsiders, Cam’s songs look effortless, and with his smooth and clear flow he can sling multiple deliveries in one fell swoop.

“Paradise,” like many of the ganj-soaked hip-hop cuts before it, slowly engulfs you with an inviting tone, and the catchy production by God Level Music helps clear the song’s path to distinction. With Cam’s delivery and the rattle-ping beat, “Paradise” is all good feels and worthy of a listen.

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Album of the Week: “#CODEgreen” by Mic Write

codegreen

By: Gus Navarro

I had the chance to see Mic Write perform in Lansing, MI back in April (Mic is a member of the four-person Detroit based collective, Cold Men Young). The best thing is that he was out in the crowd beforehand nodding his head to the music and just hanging back. If you didn’t know who the Detroit native was, his unassuming demeanor wouldn’t have necessarily indicated that he was about to get on stage and kill it. However, that’s exactly what he did. This is very similar to how his new project, #CODEgreen starts up.

The first track, “Transmission Start,” begins slowly, full of beeps, strings and a quiet groove in the background. It sounds as though the flowers are beginning to bloom after a long Michigan winter. From there we are hit with “Triple Fat Goose (Winter Close)” that contains an on point Stevie Wonder sample and drums that embody the spirit of spring. As he raps, “the weather is finally breakin’ so what are we doin?/ Where are we going, what car are we fittin’ the crew in?” After a long winter, the need to be outside and hanging with your people is irresistible. Following the celebration of warmer weather, Mic reminds us that the responsibilities of life haven’t gone anywhere.

With “20 To My Name” and “Day Job,” the focus is on getting by despite the amount in the bank and working hard and playing even harder. On “Michigan Weather” Mic is talking about the weather, but also that on and off again girl. Much like a beautiful snowfall in January he throws, “I love her then I hate her.”

With production from Jay Norm, Sheefy McFly, Shepard and Mike Hurst, this project has a fresh sound that clearly draws on classic elements of hip-hop production. Guest appearances from Mahd and fellow Cold Men Young members, Kopelli, Mic Phelps and Blacksmith bring another level of creativeness to what is happening lyrically.

Truth be told, the eight tracks of #CODEgreen isn’t the most revolutionary content ever. This is not meant as an insult. On the contrary, it is always refreshing to hear an MC who is rapping about what they experience on a daily basis and that sounds as though they’re having fun and doing something that they love to do. With every verse, Mic Write is putting his heart and soul into what he’s rapping about. This is something that cuts through to the surface and keeps the listener engaged through all tracks. Similar to life, there are times when it’s time to focus and get shit done. However, there is always time to get down and have a good time with your crew. With #CODEgreen, Mic Write embodies this and keeps the energy up for the duration of the record.

Be sure to check out #CodeGreen here – https://soundcloud.com/micwrite/sets/codegreen

Be sure to also check out #MorrisCode here – https://soundcloud.com/micwrite/sets/morris-code

Bio: Mic Write is a dynamic emcee/poet hailing from Detroit as 1/4 of the Hip-Hop Megazord group Cold Men Young, and Rustbelt Poetry Slam Champion, ranked #2 poet in the Midwest. He is currently focusing his talents on his #MorrisCode solo series: a four part series related to the seasons and the sounds they bring with them. 

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Pushing the Tracks: “Beefed Out” by Sacramento Knoxx

BEEFED OUT

If you follow this publication at all, you’re more than likely familiar with the work of producer/MC Sacramento Knoxx. Born and raised in Detroit, Knoxx incorporates hip-hop into his work as a community organizer and activist. For the last three months Knoxx spent time in Oakland and San Francisco, California as an artist in residence at the School of Unity and Liberation and the Arab Organizing & Resource Center.  As violence between Israel and Palestine intensified this summer, Knoxx’s work to address anti-arab racism, speaking out about the injustices of the Israeli Apartheid and teaching youth from a social justice lens became even more crucial .

Today we feature “Beefed Out,” from the recently released The Trees Will Grow Again, the culmination of Knoxx’s summer in California. As he explains:

“Beefed Out” speaks to the increased militarization of U.S. police in our communities. We call on our communities to continue fighting back and resisting state violence and repression. Understanding prisons, borders, surveillance and policing as tools of global repression is critical to building and maintaining powerful movements for liberation.”

Behind the heavy and frantic war drums of DeathStar Kic’s Dustin Haffner, Knoxx successfully sums up the plight of the hood at home and abroad. He does this with lines such as, “Feeling like I’m facing King Koopa/ They quick to shoot ya/ That violence, repression, that new old message” and “De-fund activities with the police/ War on terror, war on drugs, border security/ R U phvckin kiddin me?/ This is the land of the free.”

The entire The Trees Will Grow Again project is another reminder of how hip-hop can be to unite people and raise consciousness when used to speak on the social, political and economic platform. As events continue to unfold in the United States, the Middle East and around the globe, our hearts and minds are with those continuing to do battle against oppression.

More information, the link to the song and instrumentals, are here: http://sknoxx.bandcamp.com/track/beefed-out

This was produced along side fellow DeathStar Klic producer, Dustin Haffner. www.soundcloud.com/dhaffner

 

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Return of the G’s: Why Everyone Should See OutKast Before It’s Too Late

1242_lollapalooza_080214_dh

Photo credit: diffuser.fm

By: Daniel Hodgman

Writer’s note: I would not have been able to experience this performance and reflect on it without the generosity and overall goodness of my close friend Marites. For that, I dedicate this piece to her.

“Some say we’re pro-black, but we professional. We missed a lot of church, so the music is our confessional” -Big Boi on “Aquemini”

In January, when 2014 was still a youngling, Andre 3000 and Big Boi came out of the woodwork, settled whatever differences they had and declared to the world that OutKast was back. When it was announced, it felt like a belated holiday present, kind of like that late gift your Uncle Stu sends in mid-January. The difference is that this announcement was better than any gift card you could have wrestled out of your mailbox. From the very get-go, this tour was meticulously plotted out (OutKast would settle on 40 festivals and events for the year) and triumphantly shared among critics and peers alike. More importantly however is that along with other anniversaries in hip-hop—among them, Nas’ Illmatic and De La Soul’s 3 Feet High and Rising—the return of OutKast reinforced the stern fact that although hip-hop has changed and continues to change, the golden era legends never go away and are surely never forgotten.

Continue reading

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Bonus Cut Poetry: “between class” by Justin Cook

 

Start-ups-Vision-740

This is Bonus Cut Poetry, a series that features original poems by Bonus Cut staff, artists and YOU! In this series, our mission is to bring people together in poetry, share stories and display wonderful artistic pieces. If you would like to have your poems in the next Bonus Cut Poetry installment, just email us at bonuscut@gmail.com

This installment features Bonus Cut’s own Justin Cook.

between class
By: Justin Cook

“The Temiar Self can be focused on and talked about, not as an autonomous entity, but only in ways that also implicate Other (and vice versa).”
—Geoffrey Benjamin

eyelids frozen open, crisp light
permeates lungs, heading to Shamanism,
Trance, and Sacred Journeys.
most students shoe gaze, counting
their steps led by sidewalks,
talking to someone through headphones/talking
to themselves—but from afar they peer
with excitement, who could this be?
maybe, if we recirculated our vision,
we would recognize the village: that stranger
waving/giving the nod, that snowflake
melting crystal into you, half-moon mouth
carrying her silent conversation.

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