Lynne d Johnson



« September 2002 | Diary | November 2002 »

10.23.02 10:18 PM


In realizing I have far too much going on right now in both my professional and personal lives, I had to make a decision to take a break from posting. If you want to be notified of my return, send me an email and I will hit you up with a response when I can resume with a more regular posting schedule.

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10.15.02 11:35 PM

spoiling the child

She is only 12. A little over a month ago, I bought her a cell phone so that she could stay in touch with her mother and grandmother since she travels to and from school alone now. The Bronx ain't like it used to be. Little did I know though, that mobile would come to be the bane of my existence and the fact that I purchased it for her would be used against me. Already, at her young age, she knows how much I am a sucker for her. Yes I love her madly. She is my niece and my god child. But the little whip plays me just like she plays GTA III on PS 2—to perfection.

Her mother ate a lot of seafood when she was pregnant with her, and like a crack baby who comes out with drug withdrawls, I'll tell you this kid came out with a seafood fetish like I have never seen. This background is necessary in order to explain how she hoodwinked me recently. And the cellphone was a tool she used in the game. On one of my last visits with her, she, T., and I went to Red Lobster. The kid wanted a 1/2 lobster. Go figure. That is what she wanted. Before going to eat, she wanted to stop at the pet shop. She said she had asked her mother for a lizard, and her mother said she would get it in time. The kid of course wanted it now, and felt her mother would never get it. The kid looked at lizards, and T. looked at all the little fuzzy animals. I had no interest in any of the pets. No I am not a pet hater, but I also do not fawn on animals.

As we got to Red Lobster, the kid had done a switch up. In place of her smile was a frown. She picked up her cell and called her mom, repeatedly, until her mother would answer. She gave the phone to me. Trick number one. This kid is good. "She was telling me you promised her a lizard, but you haven't told her when she would get it," I said. "Put her on the phone," my sister responded agitatedly. When my niece hung up the phone, tears streamed down her face. I told you, the kid is good. I called my sister back—on the kid's phone. "Your daughter is over here, in the restaurant crying about some damn lizard," I said. My sister blasted, "And I told her I would get it."

Hating to see her cry, the sucker that I am promised that if her mother had not bought it by the following week that I would get it for her. Now why did I do that? Every weekend since, and sometimes weekdays, the kid used her cell phone to call me. She left messages on my cell, on my home answering machine, and on my voice mail at work. Sometimes I would speak to her, and she would ask, "When are you coming over to get me the lizard?" This went on for weeks. My mother nor my sister even knew how much she was calling me. That was my fault. Had she not had the cell, they would've known. I finally told her that if she kept calling me like that, she would not get the lizard. So she stopped for a little while.

Finally she made me commit to this past holiday weekend. She called me everyday. Even when I told her I was on my way, she still called to find out where I was and how far away I was. I live by a rule though, when you promise a child something, you should make good on your word. I think she knows this about me. She must. And even though she knew she was annoying me with all her calls, she decided she wanted something and she was going to get it by any means necessary. I do not mind that I ended up getting her the lizard, with a fully outfitted terrarium mind you, but I think I have a lesson to learn here. If not a lesson to learn myself, there has got to be something I have to teach the kid. I can not have her going through life acting like a spoiled brat just because her auntie is a sucker.

P.S.: The main reason I have been lax about adding a new commenting system is that I would no longer—nor would you—have access to all the wonderful comments folks have posted here in the past. I am working on finding out if they can be extracted from the database in some manner, but word on that has not returned yet. Also looking at Jason and Mo's new site designs has me all amped about mine, but it seems I might not have my new layout until November. That is what I get for asking a designer to do it for me. It seems the creative process takes time. And when you are not really a paying customer, you just have to wait for all the paid gigs to be out the way. *SIGH*

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10.12.02 03:11 AM

hip-hop and me

As previously stated, when I went to the Brown Sugar premiere the other night, I began contemplating all sorts of things in regard to my relationship with hip-hop music and culture. These thoughts reminded me of an essay I once wrote that was slated to appear in Oneworld several years ago, but somehow never made it in. I wish to share it with you now. Remember, it was written some years back, similarly to Flesh For Femme, so it isn't as up-to-date as it could be. Yet I tried to remedy that somewhat.

Blurred Lines: Somewhere Between Hip-Hop and Alternative
by Lynne d Johnson

Sistah grew up in the Boogie Down Bronx, so hip-hop is woven into the fabric of her existence. Many summer nights her black soul ran cross the bridge from Co-op City to The Valley (Haffen Park located on Hammersley Ave. in the North East Bronx served as breeding ground for many '70s hip-hop crews, most notably DJ Breakout and The Funky Four). There she Patty Duked and Smurfed to whatever the DJ scratched scientific, while the MC waxed poetic. Yet, sistah also surfed the radio waves for college or underground punkdafiednewavism.

While digging the party message and male posturing of Flash and the Furious Five and The Treacherous Three, she developed a strong craving for the Euro-imported rhythms of bands like Berlin and the Divinyls
. And while she, that's I, has often taken shots from my African-American kinfolk for it, I am proud to understand, no, love both. How could you not love both? Alternative and hip-hop both make heads nod while speaking for your young soul, both offer an outlet to party and manifest struggle; both prove there are only two types of music — good and bad.

Back in the late '70s and early '80s when I lived in the Bronx, both musics were still mainly underground as a major label deal was almost unheard of for artists from either camp. Alternative was not played in conventional rock or pop circuits, nor was hip-hop played regularly during R&B formats, as mainstream radio had not yet latched onto either as motives of profit.

And from those underground roots came a shared attraction to political struggle and pioneering technology. Back then, the Furious Five represented the hardcore streets of New York, just like U2, the straight-up ghetto. Life for a black man in the inner city is a constant struggle, but do you think life in Dublin, Ireland — after years of violent religious conflict — is pretty? When
belted out, "Broken bottles under children's feet/Bodies strewn across a dead end street/But I won't heed the battle call/It puts my back up, puts my back up against the wall," in " Sunday Bloody Sunday" from 1983, he meant just what Melle Mel did in "The Message," written only a year earlier — "Broken glass everywhere/People pissing on the stairs/You know they just don't care/...Don't push me 'cause I'm close to the edge/ I'm trying not to lose my head/Ah huh huh huh huh/It's like a jungle sometimes, it make me wonder/How I keep from going under."

In America and Europe, gang wars and religious wars, drug-induced annihilation and bombings, racism and terrorism, created deep youthful angst, which was unleashed through song. I idolized Melle Mel from the Furious Five and Bono of U2 for the very same reason.

Meanwhile the sounds of hip-hop and alternative pulled from the technological frontier. Afrika Bambaataa, Depeche Mode, and others developed electro funk and techno rock from synthesized disco beats fused with eclectic sounds. At the Bronx River Projects, Bam's turf, I witnessed the same frenetic and kinetic audience energy that I would later experience at Private Eyes in Chelsea, where DJs spun the industrial sounds of Bronski Beat, Nitzer Ebb and, of course, Depeche Mode.

In time the musics' cultural similarities led to mulattos: artists who creatively walk down the center of the genres, fusing styles while rising on the Billboard charts. Think of the Beastie Boys who mix their roots in hardcore punk with rap, and Onyx, who mix hardcore rap with punk. Both appeal to "real" alternative listeners and "real" hip-hop fans. Both challenge the assertion that the musics are different.

And then there are those hip-hop groups the media labels alternative rap, because they blur genres, fusing funk and pop, rock, jazz, soul, reggae and even folk. Nor do they fall into stereotypical hip-hop classifications — gangsta,
, or hardcore. The Native Tongue FamilyJungle Brothers
, A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Black Sheep, Chi Ali, and The Beatnuts — is credited with setting this style off. In time more artists followed in the Native Tongue tradition including Leaders of the New School, Brand Nubian, Arrested Development, Digable Planets, Digital Underground, The Pharcyde, The Roots, and The Fugees, among several others. These groups are also set apart by their huge alternative rock fan base, as opposed to a straight-up hip-hop following.

There are also those rap metal artists such as Rage Against the Machine, Limp Bizkit and Insane Clown Passe who take their cues from hardcore rap, infusing their rhythms with metal's heavy guitar riffs and hip-hop beats. The band's vocalists rap — instead of sing — hypermacho, rage-fueled lyrics. Further, white folk's fascination with "authentic" black culture as portrayed in hardcore, horrorcore, and gangsta rap spawned
Vanilla Ice
(more of a pop sensation in the tradition of Hammer, yet a fictitious gangster-related background was utilized to boost his street cred) and Eminem and their commercial successes.

By the time the '90s kicked in, both musics, that's alternative and hip-hop, rose from the underground abyss, and moved onto the Billboard
Pop charts. Alternative witnessed the success of Nirvana and Pearl Jam, while West Coast rap blew up through NWA offspring Ice Cube and Dr. Dre. But the sounds changed: through leaders like Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor and Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder and Raekwon and Mobb Deep, we heard more violence, self-loathing, alienation, suicidal despair and homicidal tendencies than ever. While both musics penetrated the mainstream and their makers got richer than ever, the artists sounded more depressed and angry than ever.

Nas responds to his people turning to heroin, crack, and weed, by stating, "Life's a bitch and then you die/that's why we get high/because you never know/when you gonna go." Courtney Love looks at her drug-fueled relationship with Kurt Cobain and sings, "Somebody kill me/give me pills/If you live through this with me/I swear I will die for you." Beck asks, "I'm a loser baby, so why don't you kill me?" Biggie Smalls says, "I'm ready to die and nobody can save me." Is it really that different?

Eventually life imitated art. On April 5, 1994 Kurt Cobain put a gun to his head. He was found dead on April 7 and left a suicide note. Tupac Shakur died September 13, 1996 from gunshot wounds inflicted on his way to a party after the Mike Tyson-Bruce Seldon fight in Las Vegas on September 7. On March 9, 1997 The Notorious B.I.G. (a.k.a. Biggie Smalls) was gunned down after leaving the Vibe magazine party after the Soul Train Music Awards. And Michael Hutchence of Inxs was found hanging in his hotel room at the Ritz Carlton Hotel, Double Bay, Sydney, Australia. His death was ruled a suicide.

As I sit here in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, nearly two decades from whence alternative and hip-hop first became intermingled in my consciousness and my Walkman, I sort of lament their rise to status. Commercial success has taken away from message-based, party music and led to promoting gangsterism and angst, which is selling very lovely.

Still, the musics have come to express hopelessness and despair and an overwhelming need for freedom and autonomy. These two cultures are bonding musically and culturally, creating music through similar pathways that express similar feelings in order to represent overlapping constituencies. By extension, they're proving that all of us are really not so different.

Related sites:
The History of Hip-Hop
A History of Punk
'80s Genres: Wave Hello
The New Wave '80s
A History of Techno
Rap Meets Techno, with a short History of Electro
A Pre History of Industrial Music
A Prehistory of Alternative Rock
Lectro-Slue: Generic Origins
Universal Zulu Nation
History of B-Boying
Depeche Mode
Electro Empire-Home of Electric Funk
Soul Patrol

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10.08.02 11:11 PM

to blog or not to blog, that is the question

Granted. My life is mad hectic right now. I am so over not having comments working, and then still waiting for my friend to finish working on the new design for my overall site (so I can figure out if I will install a new commenting system on the diary, or move it over to MT). These are some of the reasons I have not been posting quite as often as usual.

But then this post by Jason had me contemplating other reasons as well. I have literally been thinking about his post all day. It made me analyze why I was not in a hurry to talk about Red Dragon, which I left work early to see Friday night. Or even why attending my older sister's birthday party at Malik Yoba's Soul Cafe on Saturday didn't have me running to this diary to post. Better yet, why in the world I did not post last night after I saw Brown Sugar, a movie that utlizes hip-hop as a metaphor for a love relationship? I mean I had reserved seats. It was a premiere screening with the stars of the film — Taye Diggs, Sanaa Lathan, Nicole Ari Parker, and Boris Kodjoe — all in attendance. The movie even had me amped. Not so much about the love relationship but more about the concept or premise of the movie. How things in the movie reminded me of my initial love for hip-hop, then my love and hate relationship with it, and even some of my initial motivations for writing. I used to study Greg Tate and Nelson George as they wrote about hip-hop in the Village Voice while I was in school studying journalism. When I came out and discovered The Source, I was all gushy about hip-hop meaning enough to warrant a magazine. This was definitely something I should have posted about, because I am only touching the surface here of all that movie had me recollecting and projecting. I think Jason helped me discover my rationale on this matter. This matter of my not posting about events in my life. Or maybe, not even feeling it like I once did.

I know this whole blogging thing works because for the most part, human nature causes us to be voyeurs. But damn, my life is not all that interesting. Really it isn't. Not even my thoughts, critiques, and analyses of pop culture. Who cares? My ego ain't that big that I have to talk about myself all the time either, nor have folks reading about or inquiring into my life. There are much bigger issues out there. Sometimes, in reviewing this diary I wonder if it even looks like I care about anything. Yeah, technology and hip-hop. I know you read my bio, so you know these things matter to me. But what about these things matter to me? And what relevance do these things hold to what is going on in the world? I need a spark in the dark, or a walk around the park. Something to infuse some fiery activisim in this here brain 'puter. I need to be 'bout it. I need to manifest something that illustrates some kind of substance.

Give me a second to figure it out. I know I will. And damn, there I go again with all those "I"s.

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10.03.02 12:33 PM

napster, the movie — and then — battling the music giants

Could Shawn Fanning's life and the story of Napster really be that interesting to hold anyone's interest long enough to warrant a full-length movie? MTV thinks so.

MTV to Make Movie About Napster
By Sue Zeidler
"LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The story of Napster, the failed online song-swapping service, always promised the kind of larger-than-life elements Hollywood thrives on — corporate intrigue, a nail-biting court battle and a young hero."

"Now comes Napster, the movie."

"Cable network MTV on Wednesday said it has reached a deal for the exclusive rights to the life story of Shawn Fanning, who created the controversial and wildly popular file-sharing program in 1999 while he was a 19-year-old student at Northeastern University in Boston."

"The movie, tentatively scheduled to air in 2003-2004, may even star Fanning, now 21, as himself."

Meanwhile, Courtney Love finally gets her day/pay. Would the same thing have happened for a hip-hop artist?

David vs. Goliath to a Rock Beat
By Neil Strauss
"It is not easy for a musician to fight the music business alone. Few have tried, and far fewer have succeeded. When Courtney Love filed a lawsuit against the Universal Music Group last year, threatening to expose record company contracts and accounting practices, it seemed as if some of the longtime grievances of musicians would finally have their day in court."

"Other artists were expected to follow and support Ms. Love. None, however, did. Nonetheless, the tenacious Ms. Love, who has an itchy trigger for lawsuits, vowed to go it alone."

"After a protracted legal battle, though, Ms. Love settled her lawsuit against Universal this week, before the case went to court."

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10.02.02 11:51 PM

for the love of art and money part III

Flesh for Femme (continued)
by Lynne d Johnson

On the dancefloor, atop a small stage, are two women, one playing butch, the other femme. The butch is in hot pants and tank top. She is full-figured with cropped hair. The femme is in lace top and g-string. Her hair is long and flowing. A few women watch them pump hard to the HI-NRG, musical vibrations. Most of the women are in their own world, never glancing up. Some seem a little embarrassed and rather calm—calculated even—in their response to the women dancing.

Caroline tells me there are girls upstairs. In the new Catwalk Lounge the music is softer and sensual. Women sit at tables in pairs, or in chairs facing the stage in semi-circle fashion. One of them, who says she hasn't been here in four months, says she prefers this lounge better than the scene downstairs. "I get to have closer contact with the dancers," she says. "It's more intimate."

A white dancer named Christine jumps onstage in a suit jacket and work boots. Her body is slightly chiseled and flexible. She take off her jacket, drops to the floor, spreads her legs in a V, then turns on her stomach. A woman hops to the stage and places a ten dollar bill between the cheeks of her buttocks. Christine, a student at NYU and a lesbian, is dancing, she says later, "predominantly for fun and not for money. I like to do it. No matter what the money. If I hated it, I wouldn't do it. I like that people want to see me naked."

With men, Christine says, it's all about fantasy. Unlike her tomboy outfit at HER/SHE, when she goes to men's clubs, it's all glam—spiked heels, stockings, garters. "You have to be specific to their fantasies when you're simulating sex acts," she says.

Uptown, at The Body Shop, where a man can fall in love for one night, a few women are in the dressing room, fixing their weaves, attending to their makeup and nails. The competition is on for the last few men at the bar. Some girls are out on the floor—socializing, teasing, flirting. For this they get paid, too. In the dressing room, the women say it's frustrating work and they hate it, but they're addicted to the money. "I can make $360 in one night, tax free," one dancer says. "It'll take a week to make that elsewhere, and taxes come out."

The women in the dressing room say this is strictly work. Guys just want you to take it off, they say. These women say that dancing has given them a different outlook on men. "It's hard to trust them," one dancer says. "They come in wearing their wedding bands. Others treat you like you're cheap or an object." Some girls have to get very drunk or high to perform their routines. One lesbian dancer, who will not dance for women, tells me she has to imagine being sexy for her lover when performing for men.

Paris is a promoter who throws Chocolate Dreams, a women-for-women party in Brooklyn. "Mentally, it's different for a woman to dance for a woman," she explains. "I've seen women be uptight with men and then go and put it right in a woman's face. They feel more comfortable."

The Body Shop is set up specifically for men to watch women dance. Dancers stop by a guy who makes eye contact or waves money. They bend down over the bar, a guy talks dirty to them, touches them, and they come back up with money held between their breasts. If a dancer stops by a guy who doesn't find her sexy, he'll profanely and obscenely tell her to get out of his face. Once her routine is over, she'll work the crowd to find a man who will buy her drinks and pay her to sit on his lap and spend time with him. This rarely happens at women's clubs.

At Scores, a sportsbar cabaret, the women are mostly tanned, pumped-up, buxom or breast-implanted blondes who look like Pamela Anderson Lee. There are a few ethnic exceptions thrown in. You can tell that this gig is totally about skill and technique. They know how to get that money. Just the other day, Howard Stern said of the Scores' dancers, "They'll tell you anything you want to hear. These girls are professionals."

Twenty-dollar lap dances are the main attraction. Men are gawking, oohing, ahhing. They make eye contact with a dancer, and she comes over and sits in their lap. They guy asks her how she likes it, and paws all over her as she grinds on his groin and peers into his eyes.

I sit behind a male and female couple getting a duo table dance. The woman smiles eagerly. Her man does, too. At women's clubs, couples hardly ever share a dance. Too much female competition.

After the dance, I follow the woman to the bathroom. She's all jittery. She jumps when I approach her.

"How did that feel?"

"Like nothing I've ever experienced."

"What do you mean?"

"She aroused me, but I couldn't touch her. She messed with my head. I think I want some more."

Somewhere downtown, a buxom, dark-haired Latina in four-inch heels named Nicky is onstage, halfway through her first night dancing for women. Mesmerized female onlookers are at her knees, waving dollar bills at the bisexual, two-year exotic-dance veteran with her baby's father's name tattooed on one cheek of her ass. Nicky leaves the stage and dons a long, pink, slinky dress, then takes it off for an admirer at the front of the stage and begins dancing between her legs. Nicky's back is to the woman who is laughing and slowly stroking the top of Nicky's thighs. Nicky cancelled a gig at a men's club to dance for women tonight. She says she will dance for women again.

for the love of art and money part I
for the love of art and money part II

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