Urban haps of a grrrl on a mission to be a better writer, a new music master-blaster and a wonderfully brilliant razor-packing, MAC LipGlass wearing feminista...

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Life Is The Dash (Part 1)

Okay everyone knows Damon Dash has a big head. He's arrogant, demanding and flashy, but he's also relentless. This past April I interviewed Dame for this mag and realized this cat has got game and heart. I wasn't a big fan before, but after spending a couple hours with him I really grew to like him and his wacky sense of humor. Just recently I was asked to interview him again as a follow-up and that it would probably be his last interview before he goes underground to regroup and get his new hustle together. Because UNleashed is not that widely known (and because I just can’t seem to get enough of The Ultimate Hustler) I thought I'd post the interview. Tell me what you think. Do you like Dame? Do you feel like he is nothing without Jay? And will he be able to come back after selling (losing) Rocawear & Rocafella? Check it out:
The Armadale vodka is flowing like water from a New York City hydrant in July. Damn near everybody is freshly dressed in Rocawear gear. A Jay-Z cut can be heard playing in the background and P. Diddy is doing a weak flailing version of the Harlem Shake.

You can cut the tension with a hacksaw. Everyone is sitting on the edge of their seats as the credits begin to roll on this late night screening of Damon Dash’s quasi-stellar mockumentary, The Death of a Dynasty.

Unreal, but not totally unfounded, the film pokes fun at the HipHop industry and reworks the gossip associated with one of HipHop’s biggest break-up’s since J. Lo and Diddy split. At the end of the flick, which Dash directed and produced, there is a shot of a note Dash has written to a less than authentic journalist that reads, “Niggaz can do whatever they want. You can’t knock the hustle.” Making a multi-million dollar, multi-media empire in a relatively short amount of time and even making a movie that portrays P. Diddy as a dancer with two left feet, is a surefire testament to Dash’s convictions.

I am America. I am the part you won't recognize, but get used to me. Black, confident, cocky -- my name, not yours. My religion, not yours. My goals, my own. Get used to me. - MUHAMMAD ALI

It’s Friday afternoon, April Fool’s Day, yet it’s business as usual in the Rocawear offices. Everyone is moving fast, but with the precision of a drill team. Inside the executive suite there is a simple tranquility that belies the grandeur, adrenaline and straight-up madness associated with the CEO whose initials DD are embossed in steel on the crest of the massive desk that overlooks Times Square and damn near all of New York City. Damon Dash’s mid-town office is grand with all the trimmings. Framed pictures that line his desk act as a montage of Damon’s frenetically eclectic lifestyle. There’s a shot of him with Robert DeNiro in Anguilla another with Cam’ron in Harlem and another with Kevin Bacon in Cannes. There’s also a playful photograph with Dame biting the cheek of his wife, fashion designer Rachel Roy, a former intern at Rocawear who now heads her own clothing line.

This montage is, in a sense, how Damon has framed his life and how he defines America. It’s not a Black or White thing. It’s a green thing— making money, spending money, making more money. If it means promoting a film in Cannes, then jetting off to the French Caribbean to unwind and then appearing in a photo shoot back in his old uptown hood then so be it. As long as it is a means to making ends, then the self-acclaimed cakeaholic-- someone who is addicted to getting money, is ready to make it happen.

At the office, the chief executive greets everyone with a smile and a quick hello while he deals with a buzzing Blackberry, a ringing office phone and the ruckus of folks in his waiting room. Just as he sits back to catch his breath, his cell phone rings. “If you don’t know who you’re calling then I don’t think I have time to speak with you,” he dryly responds with a sly smirk that makes you think he just may know who’s on the other end, but just like that he hangs up and is on another call. April Fool’s Day or not, clearly the 34-year old hip-hop powerhouse has no time for the prankster on his cell phone.

With no less than five music albums, three films, two new clothing labels and one cigar company in the works, all scheduled to launch before September, Dash’s every move is a serios one and his life is consumed by his drive for dinero. “There are a lot of people who go to college that just don’t do shit with their lives. I’m aggressive about living life,” says Dash. “That’s what hustling is all about.” A Taurus who admits to probably having ADD, Dash finally gets a chance to sit down and in this rare moment of peace he pulls out a box, pricks his finger and checks his blood glucose. Even with a short attention span and limited time, Dash, a diabetic, knows exactly when and how to focus when it matters most.
To Be Con't...

Monday, November 28, 2005


I've always wanted to know what it would be like to sing lead in a funky, raucous rock ensemble, to be an art educator in the hood, experiment with the resonance of musical vibrations on a drum machine, and perform spoken word and travel to far off countries. Well now I have a pretty good idea after discovering this blog. I actually saw LaTasha N. two weeks ago at The Studio Museum and she was talking about the brutal honesty of her blogging. So needless to say I spent the first two hours this past Saturday morning reading every single entry. It’s so juicy and poetic! Latasha is extremely personal and descriptive about what she shares about her life. From the fight with her roommate to her need for prayer and exercise to her passion and her challenges as an artist, Ms. Diggs does not hold back.

On the West, my comrade of three years, Miranda Jane aka Mirajuana, who I’ve incidentally never spoken to (outside of our emails) or even met, is holding it down right here. MJ is a long-winded blogger who could never be accused of not giving her peeps enough content to read, and thank god, because she is one of the few chicas out there living and breathing the beats, rhymes and the history of hiphop. Her blog is tight with stories and poetry about B-Girls, cholos, her respect for Oxun and the importance of knowing how to cook good Spanish food.

Other grrrls doing their blog thing include Felicia who has the 411 on book publishing and Black authors, Danyel who loves basketball and cooking almost as much as I do, and Lynne who seems to know the latest in tech and online developments. Yeah we got our own thing!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


I saw this pic on the cover of the Daily News and I started thinking about what it takes to be a legend nowadays versus what it took back in the day. This story which I love by Greg Tate really gets at this point with an oh so sharp razor's edge.

Speakiang of legends and of people with same last names, on Friday I was blessed to see Gordon Parks at The Studio Museum where he was being recognized and celebrated for his works including a new book that he was also promoting. Mr. Parks recited a poem he had written after hearing of Mother Rosa's death. He spoke softly, yet brilliantly for about a minute. But the joint was a piano performance by the man that created Shaft and who was in fact the first Black person to direct a major film. Brother man's still got it-- smooth, charismatic and efferevescent. I would say that that's gotta be legendary, never mind the fact that he will be 93 next week.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Brooklyn's Finest

Brooklyn is still rocking strong even though Biggie is gone, Lil Kim is on lock and Jay is retired. Never mind that today's Ellen Degeneres show was filmed in BK and that she had two of the flyest Latinas to conquer Hollywood in the house-- Rosie Perez and Rosario Dawson. Never mind that as gentrified as Fort Green and Clinton Hill are there are still pockets of soul on Fulton, Atlantic and Dekalb and Junior's is still da spot for cheesecake. Never mind all that cause Brooklyn's Finest seems to be the ladies. They are doing the damn thing out there! The Love Noir, Love Yourself event at Danny Simmons gallery was fresh and was produced by just one sista and it was big. There were manicures and makeovers and skin care consultations-- lots of shea butter, jojoba oil and lemongrass. Kamilah Forbes from The HipHop Theater Festival and Def Poetry stopped by and says that she will be leaving her Clinton Hill pad for Paris to begin a theater residency. From there my grrrl Aissata, another CH’er, suggested we head to this place she had been to once that had decent drinks. The place was Grand 275 and it had been on my list for almost a year to check out. Dwayne, the photographer, was spinning Fela and there were three ladies dressed entirely in gold (like carnival gold-- body paint and everything) sitting at the bar. First thoughts about Grand: eccentric like a mutha, fake like Erykah Badu with lock extensions to her knees, and probably pricey like anotha mutha. So I take it slow and order cranberry and Ketel One. It’s only $7 (wow!) and the bartender is mad personable (say word). I found out the Golden Grrrls had been in a fashion show held earlier and that usually on a Saturday night the sisters keep the gold makeup within the confines of their eyelids and lips (whew!)... Duane puts on Black Gold Of The Sun, I see Laini Madhubuti from The Schomburg celebrating her birthday. I’m feeling like I can trust this spot and so I order a raspberry ginger martini. Yummy and it’s only $8! I turn around and get a “what’s up hotness?” It’s MeShell and she too is a CH grrrl. She tells me that she just finished her reggae/ dub record and is enjoying some much needed time off. Damn it’s like Cheers for fly a*s BK grrrls up in this piece. Michaela, Jacquette, Sharon, and Julia are there too. On second thought this place is real like Erykah with her caesar. I get hugs, a few what the hell’s and even a buyback. Intoxicating. The space is a whirl of dancing, laughter, and chatter. Barron and his beautiful wife roll in. Another ginger martini. The designer Dudumoko and even Brianna is in the house. Brianna y’all! This is historic. Mad fun. I left at 4 am. Drunk. Happy. Golden.

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Friday, November 18, 2005


Ahhh, it's finally Friday (check out this hilarious image from Strangebrew). That means Happy Hour at my spot and because it's November, that means college basketball. There have been a couple of blowouts (Go Duke!) in these opening days, but I'm still hyped for tonight's game.

Tomorrow night is Love Noir, Love Yourself and honestly I am just as curious as I am excited. I met this sister at the NOW panel I attended last month and she is producing this event that is sub-titled A Sista's Night of Self Seduction. I mean this self-seduction thing sounds like it could be freaky-deaky, but she promises no Rabbits just body massages, spa manicures, and skin care consulting. And get this: It’s all supposed to be free. I'm going to check it out even though it's being held at The Corridor Gallery all the way in Clinton Hill. So hopefully KA, KG and/or BH will be down to roll with me since I will be in their neck of the woods.

Thursday, November 17, 2005


I just saw Yesterday, a new movie debuting on HBO next Monday, and I gotta give props (again) to the folks over there in development. Yesterday is the story of a young S. African woman who is diagnosed with AIDS. But that’s actually not the crux of the story. It’s really about the community of women who gossip with one another, whose children play together in the fields, and have grown together as a community and how AIDS being so stigmatized in S. Africa, how it so easily and dutifully destroys all of that. It’s the first international feature film ever shot in the Zulu language and is beautifully done. The sister that stars in the film starred in Sarafina and is sumptuously sublime! With Lackawanna Blues and Sometimes In April being the brilliant films they were, it seems as if HBO may be the arbiters of cool Black independent film. Now if only they had a television series as on point, especially now with the absence of Sex & The City and Six Feet Under we need an original series and we need it today!

Monday, November 14, 2005


I've been thinking a lot about the future. From a global POV it seems so grim with AIDS ravaging Africans and African-Americans, threats of the avian flu creating a pandemic here and around the world. It's all so crazy. I had already come to grips with the probability that I will not see a cent of my social security dollars due to this bumbling gov't we have in power, but now that seems so small when folks from the NO are still suffering from Katrina's devastation. So lately I’ve been going out more. Hanging with friends and trying to stretch myself, my mind, my spirit.

I was definitely on the move this past week. I went to the She’s My DJ Battle on Tuesday at SOBS. At first I didn’t feel like going because I had not heard of any of the ladies scheduled to spin (I just love DJ Reborn) and so in my snobbery thought wack juice was going to served straight-up all night long.

But the first 2 ladies were FIYA and the remaining five kinda got smoked except for this Latina named Chela who was really creative with her skills. She mixed in a cow mooing with Ja saying it’s murder with Damian Marley's Welcome To Jamrock (anotha murda hook). She came in 3rd place and would have done better had she been using headphones. It was crazy ol’ school up in there too! Red Alert was hosting, Ralph McDaniels from Video Music Box (I lived for that show!) was judging, vinyl was being exchanged, fat laces and Kangols all up the place. DJ Sparkles from Philly did her thing and took the crown. Red gave a pretty thorough history of female dj’s and hip-hop making us all nostalgic for Jazzy Joyce and Baby Dee.

On Wednesday I went to the opening of Frequency at The Studio Museum. It was an aight exhibition but overall I wasn’t really crazy for any one specific work although Xaviera Simmons’ High Seasoned Brown was powerful and some of the collage was very interesting. The highlight: Going to Native afterwards where I had the most spirited and delightful conversation with Gregory Gray, a colleague from my days--back in the day-- at Essence. He was also at the opening and we just gabbed about people, art, Harlem and of course Essence.

And Essence is pretty much the theme of my remaining outings for the week. I went to my neighbor George Alexander’s book signing sponsored by Essence on Thursday and to the Essence Showhouse with my mom on Sunday. The signing, for Queens was more like a reading meets a Chicago hair show. What one can do with a pack of yak yak and some glue is absolutely mind blowing! The Showhouse, which closes next Sunday is gorgeous. Courtney Sloane’s layout of the main floor triplex is off the chain! From there, my mom and I went to a cocktail party celebrating this. I thought this would be corny but it turned out to be fun. Folks had to guess which character you were by the quote you recited. How much fun did I have saying to the bartender, “You just a big ol’heifer!” The Color Purple has so many great lines and everyone has their favorite. Mine: Til you do right by me, everything you even think about gonna fail.” I will without a doubt be seeing this play sometime next month. Overall it was a great week of seeing people and art; Talking about books and interior design. I feel like I’m just getting limber.