Ill Camille goes ‘Home’ with latest visual

I’ve figured it out. Los Angeles’ leading female lyricist iLL Camille – yep, I said it – is a modern-day Bahamadia mixed with Ms. Lauryn Hill.

Look out for her upcoming full-length album Heirloom (Empire/Jakarta Records) to drop very soon. This here is the latest visual, which also happens to be one of my favorite songs from the project, as heard at a very fun listening party in the Fairfax District a few weeks ago.

“Home” features Damani Nkosi and was produced by Georgia Anne Muldrow. The video directed by Dana Washington.

“This one of the many instrumentals Georgia sent me that I couldn’t ignore. Damani Nkosi understood my vision for it and blessed me with a verse. Felt like I needed to talk about my progression and eagerness to leave my home all while realizing home (truly) is where the heart is.” 

Saturday reflection on Santa Monica, race and identity politics

Rosalind Helderman’s excellent Stephen Miller profile in the Washington Post got me sitting down to write this morning before heading out. That profile was just as inspirational as an impromptu visit to a Gardena music studio yesterday for a Grammy Week party to watch a showcase with organized by a black female violinist who shared the stage with Brooke Valentine, who performed a cover of the timeless Groove Theory joint “Tell Me.”

And that’s nothing to say of the fact that I shared my Eric Grant (RIP)-It Was Written story with an emcee named Cassius, whose business partner in the said Gardena studio is named Clay and reminded of Clay from a NoHo topless party at which all I remember was saying allah akbar before getting being sucker punched by a gang member/s who turned that party into a riot. Cassius and his band performed an interpolation of Pac’s “Dear Mama” that transported me back to 1996 and Downtown Business Magnets English class.

So, here I am, today, listening to dead prez’ M1 f/ K’naan and Stori James “Til We Get There” in my headpones and reading the WaPo profile of Miller, marveling at who this unknown 31-year old political operative that came up in Santa Monica to liberal Jew parents,was a sore outlier as a conservative and ingratiated himself with Larry Elder on the radio and penned some editorials in the Santa Monica Mirror. Mind you, I worked as the education and sports editor between 2010-2011, a little after Miller was a student there. He is clearly a smart guy, accepted and matriculated to Duke University, where he really stepped up his conservative game. The plug from David Horowitz to Jeff Sessions, who is now the AG of the U.S., seems like plausible progress. (If I wasn’t such as loser, I wouldn’t have impregnated a married Tanzanian national when I was a 22 year old reporter at the San Fernando Valley Business Journal. Maybe by now, I’d be working at The Camstoll Group).

Ironically, today another story really struck me. As reported by ESPN.com, Michael Bennett has declined the NFL trip to Israel explicitly because the Zionist government is underwriting it. The cool thing is that Bennett, a Super Bowl champion with a platform is not just taking a position, but is also able to articulate it like a seasoned crisis PR pro.

Perhaps foolishly, I accepted the opportunity to travel to Israel as part of Project Interchange in 2002, underwritten by the American Jewish Committee. I was looking to find my Jewish roots, but instead produced a feature story that started out with a paragraph set in a Arab Israeli town living room. Yep, I took what was clearly an Israeli propaganda trip and flipped it into foreign reporting. CSUN journalism department chair Cynthia Rawitch made sure that my work was awarded several department awards and even surprised me with a $2,500 Los Angeles Times Fund Scholarship at a dinner. I was, and still am, kinda shocked at how that happened.

Fourteen years after that article was published, Israel is still up to the same tactics, lol. Not to be selfish, but it’s amazing how far a first-generation Ukrainian – a naturalized U.S. citizen – can come in this ‘Make America First’ era yet support the underdogs, the marginalized and powerless. It goes way above Obama, guys.The difference between Stephen Miller and myself is that I actually embrace and feel embraced in the multicultural and very hip-hop community in Santa Monica. In fact, today, I’m about to head back to CSUN, my alma mater, for a meet up with fellow journalism alumni and tour the campus facilities. Then, I plan to head out to a Hip Hop Caucus event, organized by Jordan Eversley, a former student-athlete who is a prototype of a political communication strategist similar to Stephen Miller had Miller came out of the hood in Chicago. Yep, Jordan is my dude, although when I was brought in to do web copywriting and blogging on the Supreme Justice campaign, there had been plenty of times when I wanted to smack him. Still, it’s all love bro. Much respect to you and keep fighting for the people.

I want to make this last point very, very, very clear: I am not a Stephen Miller hater. As a University of Maryland University College graduate student who hopes to be continue his education at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government beginning in 2018 or 2019, I believe that civil engagement is at the very foundation of a democracy in this great country of ours. I respect conservatives. Santa Monica to Foggy Bottom to Vermont to Miami. I actually want to commend Stephen Miller for his political success, not chide him. His time in the spotlight is going to end, though, and he will not be on the right side of history. I wholeheartedly disagree with his position against Muslims, as we all know, the federal judge and the appeals courts are on the side of the majority. Bottom line is that I, a Ukrainian-American with a Tanzanian baby mama, see a vastly different world than what Miller see. I am steadfast and will always remain steadfast in seeing myself in a role to support friends and associates in the Latinx community.

Why?

Because it has guys like Alex Aldana, a USC Marshall grad student, who was the organizer of the One Nation Hip Hop Summit in Santa Monica. In 2010, following an introduction by friend and confidante Leila Steinberg – who is not Jewish, contrary to popular belief, because her mother is Mexican – I teamed up with Alex and other volunteers to organize that event. It was hella memorable, and not just because it was headlined by Pete Rock and CL Smooth with a budget from the Pico Youth Family Center. But, because the executive director, the esteemed Oscar de la Torre, a board member of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, supported it. It was a community building effort, one that connected black, Latino, Jewish and all cultures the way that only hip-hop can.

That’s power.

I wish Stephen Miller read this and whispered about it to his boss in the White House – for good laughs, for betterment of the nation, because it is the right thing to do.

Lady Liberty is destined to be black in more ways than one

Peace.

Follow my new Instagram account for more frequent updates than this blog. I’m trying! The #DirtyHarvardSessions at Unplugdla last night was simply unforgettable and ineffable. You had to be there. Besides the American Voices look I’ve helped champion the band for, I am of the opinion it needs a booking agent and a domestic and world tour. Can I be y’all publicist/road manager/whatever? LOL.

Back to what’s in the headline about the U.S. Mint. I came across a Washington Post report earlier about the Black Lady Liberty that actually made news in the NYT also back on Jan. 13, so fresh news it ain’t – although the coin actually drops in April. In my opinion, the very idea of a black Lady Liberty represented on a $100 collectible coin is the equivalent of any of the futuristic concept car I’ve written about for Car Fanatics Blog. Peep the archive.

Generally speaking: It isn’t ready for production and mass consumption, but previews what’s to come and imagines the future. Plus, it’s going to generate some serious coin because it’s gold and collectors are suckers for unique items. This is definitely better than sneakers, right?

The bigger picture is that this U.S. Mint move is purely a marketing carrot stick with some serious effect social innovation (that’s a phrase I heard in today’s Harvard Kennedy School of Government’s Center for Public Leadership info webinar).

Of course, Harriet Tubman is headed to the dub first.

Just like concept cars are meant to be ‘out there,’ creating a coin with an American-African woman is a gesture of powerful symbolism that hopefully trickles down at a time when its needed most.

Even under an executive branch as controversial and apparently, reckless, as President Donald Trump’s.

Why You Should Be At Dirty Harvard Sessions at UNPLUGDLA This Wednesday

I’ve contributed to many media outlets over the years, including some of the leading outlets that cover hip-hop culture and rap music. For many writers, interviewing and being associating with name-brand artist matters. I never looked  it that way. Even interviewing Nas – my favorite musician of all genres, for very personal reasons – was a rather straight-forward deal (Write questions, ask them, get answers, publish, move on to the next story).

My specific mission and purpose has and always will be to champion undiscovered and deserving talent. Pac Div in 2006. Skeme a few years later (Pistols and Palm Trees, funded by Baron Davis, is comparable to Illmatic). The premise to build a genuine fanbase around a consistent stream of dope music over a period of time is rather simple. To get commercialized? That’s another story. The Black Eyed Peas’ will.i.am broke that down to me when we chopped it up at the Record Plant in 2007 for what became a Critical Beatdown in The Source. Diddy turned down a chance to be a secondary quote for that piece, but I passed him in the hallway.

For what it’s worth, the latest artist I’m really championing is South Central LA-based Biz and his band, simply called Dirty Harvard Biz.  I’ve heard some of the music from their forthcoming Heart Break Hotel LP and feel its a matter of time before their art ascends to new heights.

For what it’s worth, my contribution to the band’s success is at the grassroots level. After kicking it with Biz in person a few times after mostly interacting on the phone or social media, I drafted up a new band bio and helped DHB submit an application to American Voices. I really hope they get a shot because Biz and his bandmates feel like the authentic hip-hop and urban culture ambassadors in the vein of the prototype, my Brooklyn-via-Bay Area pal Toni Blackman, and her protege, Detroit-based Mahogany Jonz, whom I’ve had a chance to see live in concert in Lusaka, Zambia.

While we wait and see what happens with American Voices, Dirty Harvard Biz is doing what bands do: play shows. If you’re near Hollywood on Wednesday, do yourself a favor and dip by UNPLUGDLA for the next one. You will enjoy yourself. Trust.

 

 

Forget about #MuslimBan inside a Caribbean club in Hollywood

I am not sure what to post about that I didn’t express on social media earlier. 

Tonight, I am inside a Caribbean club in Hollywood at the moment, and it reminds me of a club or two in Dar es Salaam. Festive and care free is how Africa and African diaspora do. Yee, as the brodie Shaadie up in the Bay would say. Yah, mang.

Three things:

Russell Simmons is the man. I am glad Uncle Rush has found political social media groove.

Thank you WordPress. Did not make it to the Jewish Graduate Student Initiative event today. Slept through it, generally how Israeli Jews do on Arab Israelis trying to get a seat at the Knesset. Yeah, my memory is long.

To switch to PR, go Golin? Three, I hope Golin finds it a mutual fit. I can see myself working there when not working on TheAmericanOpportunist.com or contributing to All Def Digital or other platforms. If nothing pans out, I am off to Dar es Salaam for three months and freelancing. After renewing my passport, of course.

Shout out to Fayah Sundays for inspiring this post. No #FakeNews when music is involved.

Donald Trump is to hip-hop like Russell Simmons is to yoga?

That’s my theory. At least, having sat five feet away from Russell last Sunday and geekin’ at his patience in signing books after a hot yoga class. Now, with that plug out of the way, here’s one of the most rational pieces of media depicting that ‘Trump is actually the epitome of hip-hop and capitalism.’ It came via a WhatsApp from my brother Camilo Smith, a Columbia j-school grad based down in Houston, Texas, these days.

I have been saying that Trump’s the quintessential American opportunist, ladies and gentlemen. Now, someone with a larger platform than myself is saying it, too.

Remind me to quote from Mr. Simmons’  Nelson George-penned 2002 biography when you see me. Or ask Russell yourself if you catch him over at Tantris studio in West Hollywood (not from his Beverly Hills residence, I presume). It’s aight that Russ is about that yoga life and while I feel it may be perceived as a cult, I don’t think of that as a bad thing.

Although at $23 per class, it sure sounds a whole lot better than $200 per month.

More on this story later, I’m sure. Hey, The Source, you still do journalism?

On the ground at #TechFairLA today

Well, since Russell Simmons’ yoga activism dynamic is not quite a freelanced story that I can pitch to a media platform such as, say, TRONC, think I’m going to just go and chop it up with All Def Digital at the Tech Fair LA Today. And Amazon’s Audible, if its reps are around. A marketing cross-partnership between ADD and Audible is something I discussed over dinner last night with my friend SJ who is working towards building out Russ’ yoga kingdom. I actually feel a strong appreciation for Russ’ work ethic and dedication to yoga, and sitting five feet away from him was inspiring. I am glad I was able to at least offer something back in the form of the reminder that this Tupac Shakur letter is arguably the most interesting item in Pac’s estate, considering he wrote the letter to a Death Row Records publicist (who a source I met just yesterday told me has moved to England after living in Calabasas for years; I guess one does that after seeing a $150,000+ payday, and here’s to hoping that letter ended up in the hands of an individual who would loan it to places such as the Museum of the African Diaspora up there near where my friend Fatimah lives and create a forum in which Leila Steinberg and I can finally reconcile). But that’s neither here nor there.

Back to All Def Digital. Most of the niggafied stuff they do is not for a business journalist such as myself. However, as a University of Maryland University College graduate student with Harvard Kennedy aspirations, I love to see dope collaborations such as the Spotify-ADD #TrafficJams. I had the opportunity to attend a taping of one, and met Amir Abbassy, b/k/a @blamethelabel, Freeway’s former manager and someone I have the utmost respect for in the entertainment industry.

I haven’t seen the content materialize on Spotify, which I actually do not use as much as Google Play Music these days. Truth be told I have never even tried TIDAL and it will stay that way until Shawn Carter decides to send someone to Ukraine to negotiate signing Neyba to a Roc Nation contract (Yeah I believe in transparency to this level). It would just be better if that person spoke Russian fluently because I am assuming that’s Neyba’s first language.

Now, before you think I’m a fool to handing out ideas out like rappers give out CDs on Venice Beach – hand out USB drives, breh –  keep in mind that the move to Dar es Salaam and/or Dallas is all but done deal, as far as I am concerned. I have nothing against L.A. but to work as a foreign correspondent and create other business opportunities, one has to get on planes and actually stay abroad. I did promise my Tanzanian fam bam that I would return if Donald Trump ascended to the office of POTUS, and I like to keep my word. While it would be nice to visit Kiev again and see my father, I’m not quite sure what stories are there to be told or employment to be had outside the CIA, which I’m going to pass because incompetence has been the Agency’s benchmark since they last touched base with me when I was in DSM in June 2007.

Generally speaking, I’m very interested to hear what the L.A. tech community hiring managers will have to say one-on-one. I’m going to the Tech Fair as a somewhat disenchanted job seeker, although participating in Mark S. Luckie’s #Journo2Tech webinar the other day definitely planted a seed in my mind.

The most important take away from that session?

To be liked. 

I’m still grappling with that one. Considering working for someone else would inherently lease away time I could dedicate to writing The American Opportunist book in Dar es Salaam.

We’ll see what the day holds at Tech Fair LA. As a fan of Mayor Eric Garcetti, I genuinely look forward to it.