Tag Archives: Big Daddy Kane

The Return of Dave Chappelle and a Look Back at His Block Party

blockparty--638x366

Starting on June 18th and running through the 26th, Dave Chappelle will be performing in New York City for the first time since 2004. Over the course of eight days, Chappelle will be at Radio City Music Hall, reminding audiences why he is one of the great comedians of our time. While the first five nights will not soon be forgotten, the last three will be monumental. On the 24th, the program includes a performance by the Legendary Roots Crew. The following night, Chappelle will be joined by Busta Rhymes, DJ Premier and Janelle Monae. Finally, the one and only Erykah Badu will grace the stage as Chappelle’s return to NYC comes to a close. With these last three nights, the goal is to bring back the magic that occurred ten years ago.

In 2004, Chappelle set up and hosted an all-day concert in Brooklyn with some of the the most respected and explosive musicians in the business back then and currently. To name a few, Kanye West, The Fugees, Dead Prez, John Legend, Yasiin Bey, Talib Kweli, Common, Erykah Badu and The Roots were all there sharing the stage. The footage of that day was eventually released in 2005 as Block Party, a feature length documentary film written by Dave Chappelle and directed by Michel Gondry. Dedicated to the memory of J Dilla, Block Party gives us a glimpse into a day of hip-hop that was full of dope artists, great music, a loving crowd and an amazing concert. Whether you enjoy or dislike the comedy of Dave Chappelle, the man knows his music and how to bring artists together. In anticipation of his run at Radio City Music Hall, we take a look back at ten of our favorite hip-hop moments from his show on Comedy Central and from Block Party.

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HIP-HOP AND THE GOD TRIBE OF SHABAZZ

Heru Falcon

By: Justin Cook

Maybe it’s just me, but goddamn, Shabazz Palaces is some of the best hip-hop to ever grace my ears. From the dark-tribal production, to the spacey atmosphere, all the way to the spiritual poetry of Palaceer Lazaro (aka Butterfly of Digable Planets), Shabazz Palaces understands the hip-hop Tao. However, I never understood one simple thing: what the fuck is a Shabazz Palace? This question led me down a rabbit-hole of research I never could have imagined. It’s mystifying, it’s unbelievable; it’s the story of hip-hop, Islam, and the mythical God Tribe of Shabazz.

The concept of the God Tribe of Shabazz is found mainly in the writings of Wallace Fard Muhammad and Elijah Muhammad. These two men were fundamental in founding and maintaining the Nation of Islam. In the 1930’s, Wallace Fard Muhammad arrived in Detroit, Michigan with a mysterious background; no one really knew who he was, or where he came from, but he made strong relations with the local black community, meeting Elijah Muhammad, one of his first followers.

He then taught the youth his own brand of Islam, drawing inspiration from Buddhism, Christianity, Freemasonry, Gnosticism and Taoism. After gaining a small following, Fard began to expand his power, claiming he had come from Mecca to preach the word of Allah; the ideal behind his teachings empowered African-Americans through spiritual, mental, social and economic means. Over time, his teachings spread to empower all of humanity. And today, these beliefs are echoed by MCs throughout hip-hop history like Big Daddy Kane, Tupac, Mos Def and Jay Electronica, among others.

In the early years, Wallace Fard Muhammad created most of the fundamental beliefs and mythology of the Nation of Islam, including the God Tribe of Shabazz. But after a follower of Fard committed murder in the name of Allah, Detroit police asked him to leave the city and never return. He left, but secretly came back a few months later. Again, he was discovered, arrested, and asked to leave. This time Fard disappeared for good, and no one really knows what happened to him. Some say he left for Mecca, some believe the police killed him—but the Nation of Islam claims he is still alive today, one that boarded the Mother Plane.

Wallace Fard Muhammad

Wallace Fard Muhammad

Before he fled the city of Detroit, Fard made Elijah Muhammad the new leader of the Nation of Islam. He began preaching that Fard was a manifestation of Allah, that he was God directly intervening with the world and his words were sacred. He founded more Temples across the Midwest, and one in Washington D.C; under his leadership, the Nation of Islam expanded greatly, playing an essential role in the civil rights movement of the 1960’s. He spoke about how the Black Man was the Original Man, who had to take back his spirit and destiny from white oppressors. He wrote a number of books on black empowerment and added a significant part to the Nation of Islam’s culture.

During this period of time, Elijah mentored a young man named Malcolm Little, who had heard about the Nation of Islam while serving jail time. A few years later the man changed his name to Malcolm X. He soon became one of the most prominent figures of the group during the 1950’s, becoming assistant minister of the Nation’s Temple Number One in Detroit, establishing Boston’s Temple Number 11, and finally leading Temple Number 7 in Harlem.  Throughout the years, his legend grew into the man we remember today. But in 1962, Malcolm X gave a speech, invoking the mythology of the God Tribe of Shabazz:

“So this scientist named Shabazz took his family and wandered down into the jungles of Africa. Prior to that time no one lived in the jungles. Our people were soft; they were black but they were soft and delicate, fine. They had straight hair. Right here on this Earth you find some of them look like that today. They are black as night, but their hair is like silk, and originally all our people had that kind of hair. But this scientist took his family down into the jungles of Africa, and living in the open, living a jungle life, eating all kinds of food had an effect on the appearance of our people. Actually living in the rough climate, our hair became stiff, like it is now.”

According to the Nation of Islam, the Tribe of Shabazz is the original people of Earth, also referred to as the Original Man, or the Asian Black Nation. All of humanity is a direct descendent from the Tribe of Shabazz, but appear to be ethically different through countless years of grafting. They first lived on the Earth 66 trillion years ago—yes, that is correct, 66 trillion years ago. During this time in our galaxy’s history, the Earth and Moon were still one, and our planet was populated by 13 tribes. An ancient scientist, named Shabazz, wanted to unite the 13 tribes of Earth under one language, but failed. So then he attempted to destroy the Earth by blowing it up. As a result, a chunk of the Earth became the Moon, and all the tribes died, except the Tribe of Shabazz.

The Original Man of Earth was grateful to have survived, and understood their blessed position to still be living and breathing. Shabazz, the ancient scientist, the creator, recognized the strength of his people and decided to guide them through life. He wanted to make his people tough, so 50,000 years ago, he moved them to the jungles of East Asia (which actually refers to Africa, the cradle of civilization). Here, the Tribe of Shabazz learned how to endure the harsh side of life and conquered every wild beast they encountered. Through thousands of years, the Tribe of Shabazz migrated slowly through Africa, finally discovering the best part of the planet to sustain life: the Fertile Crescent, the rich Nile Valley and the present seat of the Holy City, Mecca.

When digging into the symbolism of this myth, the ancient scientist, Shabazz, is synonymous with Yaweh, God, Allah, even Mother Earth herself. The Tribe of Shabazz is simply the first humans, who came into being through the course of evolution; it is the universal force that manifests itself through the nature of our planet and our very own selves. In the Holy Bible, the Tribe of Shabazz is called the Children of Israel—for the words Shabazz, Israel, and Hebrew all have the same meaning, but originate from different languages. In the Jewish language, Israel means Chosen Tribe, and in the Hebrew language, it means God’s elect. The Tribe of Shabazz is the story of humanity, without the lies, dogma and doctrine of organized religion.

The Nation of Islam believes Christianity was created to enslave the mind and promote white supremacy, claiming it to be a manifestation of Satan; the teachings of Jesus Christ are not the teachings of Christianity, and the Church suppresses the truth to control the world. To be like Christ is to be free, just, equal: these are the teachings of Islam and of the Original Man. Christianity has created a white, blue-eyed Christ—but the Nation of Islam knows he was a Black Man of the God Tribe of Shabazz. Over the past 6,000 years, humanity has been warped into believing the lies and deception of the Church, leaving most hollowed and soulless. The Nation of Islam want to reclaim the sacred heart and permeate peace and love throughout the universe—for we are children of the divine!

Shabazz Palaces (left: Ishmael Butler aka Palaceer Lazaro. Right: Tendai 'Baba' Maraire

Shabazz Palaces (left: Ishmael Butler aka Palaceer Lazaro. Right: Tendai ‘Baba’ Maraire)

Now back to Shabazz Palaces: what does it mean? It means we are all born divine, perfect: a marriage of spirit and flesh. It is understanding every moment and every breath of life is divine and a blessing: to live infinitely in every passing moment. Your body is your temple, your palace and heaven is here on Earth–no waiting for an afterlife, no life of suffering. It is embracing the depths of your soul and realizing you are a child of the Sun and Stars, a being of the Universe. It is about standing up for what is pure, against the grain of our violent society and reclaiming our spirituality. To me, it represents being completely and beautifully human. The hip-hop Tao indeed!

Works Cited

Muhammad Speaks. Muhammad Temple of Islam, n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2013. <http://muhammadspeaks.com/home/&gt;.

Nation of Islam Settlement No. 1. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2013. <http://www.seventhfam.com&gt;.

The Nation of Islam: Universal Supreme Shabazz Allah. Melchisedek Shabazz-Allah, n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2013. <http://www.universalsupremeshabazzallah.com/index.htm&gt;.

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Album of the Week: “Power in Numbers” by Jurassic 5

"Power in Numbers"

Daniel’s Thought:

One of the most influential aspects of an album comes from within, spreading as if controlled by the sprawl of a story or concept. Usually constructed through varying themes and messages and having them intertwine, these albums have added value, something that is harder to achieve than the ones that simply go through the motions. Jurassic 5’s third studio album Power in Numbers not only strides high on this characteristic, it winds it into a complex that rises as one of the best themed hip hop albums of our time.

Perhaps the biggest credit to this should be given to Cut Chemist and DJ Nu-Mark and their approach to Power in Numbers’ production. Unlike Quality Control, where the beats were more of a front-stage showcase, Power in Numbers grants more freedom to the group’s four emcees as they sling tales of poverty, urban remembrance and government enforcement. On “Thin Line,” which features Nelly Furtado, Jurassic 5 strikes passion in a deeper sense. “Man too bad that we became friends first,” Zaakir spits, “I’m not an expert on how relationships should work/But from the minute it was known/It changed the whole tone on how we spoke on the phone.”

Further on, Power in Numbers also makes you realize how great these artists are when they’re together.

Songs like “If You Only Knew” and “Freedom” display the group’s ridiculous skill at twisting four-bar verses effortlessly, and even when these songs eventually feel like they should be dragging, someone steps in and pushes it along with force and viscosity. Whether in the delivery, flow or cadence, Chali 2na, Akil, Zaakir and Mark 7even keep everything fresh, while at the same time bombarding the listener with interweaving storylines from lush thematic landscapes.

On the surface, Power in Numbers may play like any other culturally bright Hip hop album, but after several listens it becomes apparent that it’s much more than that. In every sense this album consists of capacity whether it be the flow of the verses, the plinking and plunking production, the special guests (Big Daddy Kane, JuJu, Kool Keith, Nelly Furtado, Percee P) or the messages themselves. Hitting so many platforms and launching like the unique vector it is, Power in Numbers is a must for any definitive Hip hop fan.

Gus’ Thought:

The first song I heard off of Jurassic 5’s 2002 album Power in Numbers was “If You Only Knew.” I was captivated by the fresh jazzy boom bap that to this day makes me nod my head every time I hear it. I feel this way about most of the songs on this album; “What’s Golden,” “Break,” “One Of Them” and “After School Special” are bangers. If this were an instrumental album, Power in Numbers would stand out. However, once you take a step back from the syncopated beats, jazzy guitar samples and hard-hitting synth chords you realize that MC’s Chali 2na, Akil, Soup, Marc 7 and Zaakir are providing important social commentary though their lyrics in critical, honest and clever ways.

In “Freedom,” Chali 2na explains, “Got people screaming free Mumia Jamal/but 2 out of 3 of ya’ll will probably be at the mall.” In the hook of “If You Only Knew,” we hear, “If you only knew the trials and tribulations we been through/But if you only knew, we’re real people homie, just like you/We humble, but don’t mistake for some corny-ass crew/What we do, is try to give you what you ain’t used to.”

They aren’t bragging or boasting about their escapades with women or proclaiming themselves as the best rappers of all time. Instead, J-5 is explaining what they’re about musically, and the struggles it took to arrive on the scene. In this album, you will find poignant critiques of our social and political institutions. The group also takes the time to discuss matters of love, romance and friendship in the song “Thin Line” featuring Nelly Furtado. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, “A Day at the Races” will play. This song features rap legends Big Daddy Kane and Percee P, that show they can still hang with any of the young guns in hip-hop.

This album is an essential listen to anyone interested in Hip hop because it is an illustration of how a group can combine original musical production with inventive lyricism that moves the conversation about how we live, and what we value to the next level.

Must-Listens:

“If You Only Knew”
“What’s Golden”
“Freedom”

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