Category: Journal

Dealing with some New Brand Of Dad

"Art director" Phyf and main Dad Audiophile 021 talking Ninja Turtles and nappies.

“Art director” Phyf and main Dad Audiophile 021 talking Ninja Turtles and nappies.

 

“Aight listen! Ye inna position te make a difference if you stop look an listen an make it ye main mission…”

The New Brand Of Dad project is all about how having kids makes us want to be better.  Better artists, better humans, just better overall.  Better at life really, while still working on its personal definition.  The New Brand Of Dad project is about how our little kids have pushed us to make sense of things, letting us strip away all the petty shit and focus on what is really important in our lives.  Having a kid seems to bring that into a fairly sharp perspective, and quickly.  No lie, having a kid is like adapt or die.

Look, before I start getting too motivational speaker on the reader, just to let you know that NBOD isn’t anything new as such, in that it is an album of music recordings, rap and beats, Hip Hop at our finest.

What is new is the perspective that has guided our approach.  We are producing the album from the perspective of being new to the parenting game, while being longtime in the music making and performance game.  This project is about prioritizing quality in the way that we work.  This is about legacy, and longevity, and making a mark that we will always be be proud of.  The ideas contained in this project are timeless, but the production is setting a higher standard that we aim to promote, develop and progress beyond.

It makes sense then that we would want to set the highest standard possible, so that any progress made would be taking us to a new level, just like the commitment to being a good parent.  You have to be able to adapt if you are going to raise your kid right, because that little life is in constant development.  The kid you knew yesterday is the one that you learned about today, and will become a new kid tomorrow.

To raise kids you have to be ready to raise yourself.

The dads involved in this project know all about not dropping the ball, about not compromising your craft, about taking yourself seriously enough to risk and to roll with the possible punches.  It seems like that’s what being a dad is all about.  You don’t always see things coming so you can’t always be prepared.  All you can do is commit yourself to the process, and when you do trip up or stall for whatever reason, quality of character is what pulls you through.  Hip Hop is the same.  It’s all about the recovery.  When breakers slip or MCs tongue stumble, the way they turn that into part of the routine or the rhyme is how you can identify real skill.  Kids are like that, they don’t have all the control so you have to be there with them, to help them recover so that they can discover.  That means you have to be on point, more then you ever thought possible.  You have to find plenty extra energy.  You have to take more time or at least maximize the time you have in making sure you make the best move possible in the moment.

Look, again, this is all pretty obvious stuff if you are even a slightly positive person that drinks coffee and gets busy on a serious level of attack when it comes to life.  It’s just having a kid makes it seem less like a mission and more like a purpose.  This album is about having a clear purpose.  Like we want our kids to have a quality life, we want the listener to have a quality experience.  Our kids are teaching us about perspective, and we want to put these lessons into practice.

NEW BRAND OF DAD is due for a JULY 2014 release.  Like us on Facebook, follow us on twitter, stay tuned and keep practicing that perspective…

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East Jerusalem story

I heard a story today, about East Jerusalem.  It’s about a family, a Palestinian family of Islamic Arabs, that want to build a home.

This family goes back generations, maybe 6 or 7, back into the histories of this land and this city.  Jerusalem is their home, they have known no other. This family wants to build a home, or at least an addition to their family house.  This house that they have lived in for years is on land that they have occupied for centuries.  Like any modern home owner in any city in the world, they pay rates to the municipality to reside on that property.  The young children are getting older, bigger, and the family is expecting a new baby soon.  They want to extend their house, so they apply to the municipality for the rights to do this.  They wait, months go by.  5, 6.  Then a year.  Then two years, then six, then ten.  There is no response to their application.  The children are all much, much older now, the baby born is already almost a teenager, the house has long outgrown them and still they hear nothing.  They cannot wait any longer, so they build an extension without the necessary permit.  When it is complete, they move the furniture in, followed by the family.  Life carries on in this new space, 5 months, 6 months.

Then it happens.  One night the family wakes up to the sound of heavy machinery maneuvering just outside their home. They are surrounded by large demolition vehicles and security forces. It is dark and the only lights are the strong beams from these machines, and the torches of soldiers, armed, some of them masked, who give the family only a short time to evacuate whatever and whoever they can, before the machines start to tear down their home. The destruction is not solely leveled at the new extension, only recently added on, but on the entire home. By the time day breaks and the machines lumber away, it is over. Nothing is left standing. What furniture they managed to move in the terror and the darkness stands exposed, scattered randomly where it fell when rushed from the house. The rest lies in amongst the rubble of the home. “This was an illegal house.” they are told again and again by the bland faced soldiers.

The property is still subject to tax, and if the family does not pay, they will be expelled from East Jerusalem.  They must continue to pay the rates that are due on the rubble of their former life.  There is a final rub here, a last official stamp that marks them as the second class citizens they have become.  The city will not cover the cost of the machinery hire.  The demolition vehicles that performed this operation are legally attached to the home owner who transgressed the city permit laws.  They must pay for the hire of the machinery that destroyed their home.  If they do not, they will be forced to leave.

This is just one story, from one day, from one family in East Jerusalem. There are many, many more.

Boycott Apartheid Israel.  Free Palestine.

rubble of lives

 

[ www.bdsmovement.netwww.israelapartheidweek.com ]

BRICS that don’t build.

Durban (my home base) is a city with a history of protest and revolutionary thinking. The man who founded the ANC (the majority party in our current self-styled government of liberation) was from here, and successive leaders of that original organization of unity have been based here. The Natal Indian Congress that coordinated and conducted effective passive resistance stay aways and go slows and such civil disobedience, was based here. Gandhi began to develop his legendary ideas of ‘satyagraha’ by acting together with the civil society movement of Durban. Our International Convention Centre has welcomed on many occasions variously foreign leaders, diplomats and captains of big business, and on as many occasions has had to build barriers against communities and social movement members who gather outside that cathedral of capital to let their voices be heard.

It’s on this old battleground for civil and human rights that a fresh fight is forming.

Brics from below

This fight will be one that unites many communities into a single entity, as we collectively acknowledge a clearly defined ‘enemy’, recognizable to us all in it’s various shifting forms, from government and capital collusion, to brutal policies of forced removal, to environmental destruction. Together with this oncoming wave of fresh marginalization of our civil society voices, and it’s building brutalization of the poor and disenfranchised, the way is most certainly being paved for the type of high-level corporate corruption we have grown so used to in our young democracy.

“Capital B to the R to the I – C – S / 5 letters suggest who writes the cheques / but never checks the Rights / so the peoples lives are economically blocked by some Capital lies…”

B R I C S stands for Brazil – Russia – India – China – South Africa. These five countries are defined in money talk as “emerging economies”, which basically means that up till now they haven’t been allowed to eat at the big table with the traditional leaders of the global economy. These “emerging economies” are seen to pack significant weight in import and export capital and what opportunities they offer others in terms of infrastructure development both at home and abroad. Now, with this growing power, they are more interested in working with each other (economically speaking) then with the ‘old guard’ (the USA, the UK, the EU) who have been scrambling to maintain any credibility/superiority through the last few years of managing a financial crisis that might have been avoided.

That’s what BRICS is: a group of new heavy-weight economies that want to start doing business with each other to create a collective fresh big swinging dick on the Global playground.

“Maite tells us not to criticize / coz they’re bringing us a BOOM like ‘industrialize’ / but we don’t want more construction, corruption and drama / eyes still wet from the tears of Marikana…”

Economists, politicians, government planners, and other such people whose careers are based solely on legitimizing this sort of international gamesmanship, will call up all kinds of verifiable figures and concrete facts together with clear government sanctioned policies of implementation that will lend massive credence to the notion that this is collective is going to “benefit” all of the countries involved.

Here’s where it get’s tricky, sticky and straight-up bull-shitty: isn’t a country largely defined, not by it’s global economic standing, but by the well-fare, the wellbeing, of it’s people? Can a country even be said to exist, if it’s natural resources (again, NOT it’s economic resources), it’s actual natural beauties and environs, no longer exist? Can there be any “benefit” in asking a people who’s lives, even in the last twenty years of “freedom”, are largely defined by continued hardship and a struggle to access even the most basic of human rights (shelter and dignity), to sacrifice on behalf of an unseen entity like ‘the economy’?

If the answer to the first question is yes, and to the second two is no, then how is it that the South African government, thought its parastatal TRANSNET, in an apparent attempt to punch above it’s economic weight and justify its standing in this arrogant acronym (BRICS), would sanction the expansion of the Port of Durban in an effort to make this city the “Gateway to Africa”, if that means the displacement (forced removal) of 6000 South African citizens, the destruction of a series of natural African eco-systems, an increase in the already rampant and chart topping pollution of the Durban South Basin, and the undermining of a local manufacturing market that employs thousands?

“It’s just another power BLOC / fokkol change / 99% playing in a 1% game…”

When the Occupy movement grabbed the worlds attention in 2011, when they moved to shut-down Wall Street in New York, when they camped outside St Pauls in London, inspiring multiple synonymous movements around the world to take up fresh arms, the common paradigm was of a world where 99% of the population worked and in many cases slaved for the benefit of the 1% few.

BRICS has set itself up as a clear case of the operation of the mechanics of maintaining this absurdly weighted percentage paradigm. While the biggest ‘players’ in this game, the leaders and ministers of these countries who are in control of ‘international cooperation’ (foreign policy) together with their private capital counterparts, continue to meet to discuss the easiest ways to ensure the quickest and most effortless profits, the people on the ground that will be directly affected by any moves made “on their behalf” are consistently excluded from this policy making process.

Unless of course they decide to find alternative routes to reminding those at the top that the foundations tend to crack, that the base starts to get shaky, when the people decide that movement is necessary.

Once again, Durban plays host to just such a social civil society movement: The South Durban Environmental Alliance . This movement, that is built from below by real “human bricks”, while operating in protest to the Port of Durban expansion, is in effect operating in protest of ANY type of traditional top-down political play that seeks to make pawns of a people while the Kings breathe easy.

This meeting took place today. Don’t worry if you missed it. It won’t be the last, not by a long shot.

BRICS from below Durban action

[Follow @BricsFromBelow to link with a growing movement of eThekwini communities mobilizing against this juggernaut]

Suli Break(down): Why I will not let a YouTube video do all my thinking for me

Some people think that I’m trying to battle Suli Breaks.  I’m not.  Before you read this, watch his video:

Now watch my response:

Now dig this:

A lot of people might think that I disagree with this cat.  I don’t.  Before we go any further let me just state openly that I have big respect for Suli Breaks, and for anyone like him that uses a true talent and impressive skill to inform and inspire others beyond the self-gratifying nature of most contemporary pop culture that only seeks to serve itself and sell that self to others.

This cat walks the talk.  As I said, much respect.

What he has done here has inspired me to respond.  People think I’m battling him.  I’m not.  The purpose of my piece was to take his argument further.  There is a competitive edge to it, it seems to be provocative, and in a lot of ways begs a response, but that’s the nature of what we do as Spoken Word artists, and I’m pretty sure that he would understand my intentions here better then anyone.

I’m not battling him, I just don’t think he made enough room in his exam argument for the teachers and parents that are out there with a broader view of their role as educators.

Now I never like to explain my poetry.  I think it’s like explaining a joke, and a good joke needs no explanation.  However, there is more to this piece then simply the poem.  There is the question of context, his British versus my South African.  There is the question of audience, the difference between the pupils he is talking about, and those who came up to me after class one day, excited, saying “Sir, have you seen Suli Breaks?  You have to see it sir!  It’s Spoken Word sir, go check it out!”.  I did check it out, and I wasn’t going to respond, until one of the teachers in my department said to me how she felt like her students were using this video to attack her, how they seemed to be accusing her of some kind of collusion in what was to them a seemingly corrupt system.  Hearing that, the way the video had been picked up as a kind of banner to be flown in the face of teachers and parents without considering some of those broader questions, I had to respond.

My response was in the form of a Spoken Word piece that mimicked Suli’s style and production, a direct reference that openly identified with the genre and stood in the same space to literally re-focus the argument.  When they heard it, the fellas at the school I teach at part time wanted to create a video version as a further direct reference to the original.

As I said, and as you hear me reciting in the piece, I think that there is more to exams then the final mark, and that the real benefit that comes from any test is not in the final result, but in the process of preparing, studying, and honing mental skills that will serve you beyond any specific subject.

In one sense, as a friend and colleague pointed out, exams results do matter.  For example, if you had the choice to drive over two different bridges, one built by an engineer who got 100% on his finals and the other by an engineer who got 98%, which would you choose?  If you had to have open heart surgery and you could choose between two surgeons, one who got 100% and another who got 95%, which would it be?  I don’t think you could be blamed for wanting to go with the one with the higher score.

However, I think Suli knows this, and I don’t think that is what he is saying, so I tried to say it like “Exams are a way of working out a kind of worth, but students who are working will always be worth more then exams…”.

Okay, now I’m explaining my piece.  Bad joke.

I’m going to leave it up to you to decide, one way or the other, because the ability to be able to do that, to be able to take in information and develop your own opinion, to be able to use your brain to assume an individual position, that’s the education that I think we are both banging on about.

Once again, respect due to you Suli.  I know you didn’t mean to, but you’ve sparked a worldwide debate.

Much thanks to all of the staff and students of Clifton College Durban for making this happen.  If it is a battle, I’d rather it be for education, and not entertainment.

p.s.  This is dedicated to my father, who educated me about teaching, and to my mother, who taught me about being an educator.

FLOOR ASSASSINS FOREVER

It must be one of my greatest honors, to be associated with the 031 FLOOR ASSASSINS, a crew of hard working concrete cracking blood stained Breakers that I have had the pleasure of watching progress over the last (almost) 10 years. I will let them speak for themselves with the video clip below, but just to know that these fellas are one hundred percent homegrown Hip Hop talent, and I can vouch for that, having watched them take literally every step of their journey to international success and status. I was there when they took the title of Durban Champions way back when at the Life Check All Elements Battle of the Year. I was there when they travelled as a four man squad to compete in the African Hip Hop Indaba in Cape Town, their first experience of the world of professional Breaking and Battling. I have seen them broaden their perspectives and in embracing contemporary styles, broaden their horizons. They have grown from kids into choreographers, carrying the roots of Hip Hop culture and its philosophy of expression followed by freedom into every aspect of their craft. I have nothing but respect for these fellas. They keep the fire burning and bring us all in from the cold.

If you didn’t know, now you know. Floor Assassins forever.

Pygmy and the Butterflies

Downtime in Baraka

Downtime in Baraka

This is my cousin, my mother’s brother’s kid, Miles “PYGMY” MacDonald. He is a hip hop flavored poet like me. We write and recite back and forth and generally share the same tastes when it comes to music, life and beer. We like music hot, life chilled and beer cold.

Pygmy on the job

Pygmy on the job

Pygmy is fluent in kiSwahili, a skill that has landed him earning dollars transporting diesel fuel from the Tanzanian border into the jungles of the DRC. This is no joke. He operates the lead vehicle in a convoy of twenty trucks, each with a capacity of around 20 000 litres of fuel. The fuel gets taken deep into the forest to a gold mine, one of many, run by some South African. Sounds simple enough until he tells you how a country that once boasted over 100 000 kilometres of servicable roads has seen that reduced to just over a couple of thousand. The rest has been reclaimed by the jungle, which means a combination of flaura and fauna together with rebel fighters engaged in a seemingly endless conflict over, well, plenty of things. Mainly it’s about who gets the right in which area to stop the convoy and demand ransom. Pygmy knows this, because he has sat down with the rebel leader and the government leader at the same time, in the same village. They weren’t negotiating. They were having a beer and a chat. These two men are cousins. Then they go off to run their respective armies.

Essentially my cousin has to be prepared for anything, from a non-existant road and a village full of people who are looking to blame the nearest “mzungu” (in SA they are calleg “mlungu” meaning “that white person”) for the lack of any serious infrastructure, or a kid in a Spider Man mask with a Rocket Launcher who is looking to be bought off with a Playboy and a packet of cigarettes. I think this is what they mean when they talk about entrepreneurship in Africa. Needless to say, my cousin can get pretty jaded at times. On the one hand he seems to be living the adventure life that plenty of us Western and “developed world” consumers crave, complete with a chimpanzee as a pet and an intense wealth of green raw tropical jungle to lose yourself in. On the other hand there is the day-to-day stuck in the mud or eyeball-down-the-barrell-of-a-gun type of regular existance that he leads.

Pygmy2

Did I mention that he is also a poet? A rapper, an MC of mean ability? Did I tell you how he is a qualified Yacht Captain, a superb fisherman, a humble human and a cheeky drunk when we have occassion to get a little loose together? All in all he is a pretty unique specimen, a genuine human being with both feet firmly on the ground, and you don’t get more grounded then Africa. There isn’t a country on this continent that doesn’t take it’s soil very seriously. Whether digging in it or building on it or remembering it or selling it or lying in it or standing on it, soil is the common ground. Before there were borders it was soil alone, and as the soil changed you could tell just where exactly you were, how far you were from water, how high you were above the ocean. Now it’s all passports and check points and pieces of string across the road attached to a couple of stoned soldiers with nothing better to do then wait for the next sucker to come straining and sliding along the mud.

Pygmy takes plenty of photos, mostly of work, but he has a section that is strictly about butterflies. That’s right, butterflies, because they were here first but they don’t have to claim it, and they don’t hassle him so he doesn’t have to hassle them, and they can choose to stay or fly away.

The one thing that grows beautifully in any soil in Africa is poetry. Pygmy manages to put his purpose down as staying open enough to it all to be able to translate it into rhymes and lines that let the rest of us know that there will always be more to Africa, more to the World in fact, then just the jungle.

I’m going to be keeping an eye on Pygmy from down South, while he keeps one eye on the road, one on the rebels, and his third eye wide on the butterflys inside.

At the office

At the office

BRICS that don’t build

bric-flags

BRICS is coming to town this week, Tuesday 26th and Wednesday 27th, the ICC in Durban once again playing host to some of the heavyweights of our little planet and its septic politics.

Brazil, Russia, India, China and of course South Africa. (Wait, shouldn’t that spell BRICSA? Aaaah, but that wouldn’t be a clever little acronym that speaks of building, of development, of construction. Funny time to be speaking about construction in SA given the latest news about just how polluted and corrupt that industry is in its current mechanics).

But, whatever, they are coming, we are welcoming them, we are sitting down with them to decide on some mutual agreements around “partnership for development, integration and industrialization”. This is the theme being touted by the South African hosts, the department of International Relations and Co-operation, headed by her “Maite”ness, she of COP17 infamy.

Apparently, according to the minister and her crew, it would be unpatriotic to criticize SAs inclusion in the BRICS bloc. I take that kind of thing personally, so I decided to figure out my response and put it into some lyrics.

Okay, I’m getting ahead of myself. I’m trying to decide just how worthy this whole thing is of my attention and ire. I have been reading and researching and trying to get to grips with the whole concept of BRICS so I can understand why there is such a solid and concentrated resistance to its existence and our participation therein as the only African country to be involved at any serious level i.e. we got to have our name in the acronym.

Lets start there: BRICS. Bricks should be used to build right? To build what exactly? Infrastructure (the means of extracting wealth & resources), development (producing the right logistical components to facilitate resource extraction) and growth (monetary profit garnered from increased resource extraction, as in GDP). These are primarily economic concerns it would appear, with no mention of social infrastructure (schools, clinics, houses) or development (education) or growth (trust in our civil services and political leadership). These are issues that seem to be concerned solely with our expansion as an economic power, not as a leader in human rights advocacy or democratic advancement.

Once again the red carpets are being rolled out, the blue lights are being dusted off, the sushi is being selected, all for the sake of increasing our capital carrying capabilities and concerns.

BRICS is described as a new Power Bloc. What power exactly? Political muscle against the failing age old Western dominated corporate and political paradigms of our times; economic and capital muscle to make sure that we get to carve a larger section of the pie that governments bake in the big buisness ovens; the power to decide who gets to play in the African sandbox and who has to stand in the naughty corner; the power to control the living standards and self-determination of the people who melt into the concrete mix that builds these “blocs”. Basically, the power to determine who stays in power and how that power is powered.

Needless to say, this doesn’t really include or make space for the “powerless”, the large percentage of people who will ultimately have to serve the ends of that smallest percentage, that ridiculous figure that represents the wealthiest elite few, that 1 percent figure that we are walling off the ICC for, that we shut down streets for, that we protect and pamper while they sweat over the details of their dominance.

I’m ranting here. Plenty of people have broken it down with a lot more clarity and control. Check these links

[ BRICS and the New World Order: a beginners guide

CAN THE BRICS CREATE A NEW WORLD ORDER?

BRICS PARTY WILL SOON BE OVER]

or better yet, get on board with the BRICS from below program that is currently running at the Durban Diakonia Center (http://ccs.ukzn.ac.za/default.asp?2,68,3,2853) the alternative anti-BRICS conference that has created a space for real democratic resistance to this situation as it stands.

It’s best I stick to what I know and say it with poetry, or in this case, poetry’s rough little cousin, Rap music.  I will be launching a track into the digital download space tomorrow that speaks about my understanding of BRICS.

Something like “Whachuknow about building blocks and BLOCS that don’t build? Whachuknow about bricks that build and BRICS that never will?”

They’re dropping BRICS from above, we’re throwing bricks from below.