1.13.2005

Brain Drain


When the people of a city lose moral, the city loses the people. When the moral of the people dies, the city dies with it.

Brain drain. You’ve heard of it, especially if you reside in the city of Toledo, Ohio.

It is the phenomenon of young people attending local high schools and colleges, acquiring their various degrees of education here, and taking that education and those degrees to larger cities to plant their proverbial roots. Sounds harmless, right? The unfortunate fact is that this occurrence is contributing to a variable strain on our economy, lifestyles and potential here in Toledo.

Many questions are being asked as to how we can began to rectify this situation. Proposals for jobs, a clearer focus on the art society in Toledo, the list, though short, exists. The biggest question seems to have no definitive answer; what can we do to rejuvenate the moral of our city?

Living in an area with a population of about 450,000, it is disconcerting to find that we don’t have more to offer the young and progressive minded that inevitably leave Toledo and outer lying areas for cities that have thriving economies and well established cultures which encourage artistic and open minded livelihood.

A few of our good people at city council have come to the obvious conclusion that the answer to this problem is simple…more jobs. My response, for lack of a better one…DUH. This is not only the most obvious conclusion, but not necessarily a feasible one. I mean, are we talking about more high end, college degree required career opportunities, or more chances for the young folks with Bachelors and PhDs to flip the best burger in town, thus allowing you to “have it your way”? It would be a difficult task to provide more employment to the brain-drainers, this being the era of downsizing and recession.

The lack of employment has everyone thinking that Toledo is a rather lackluster place to settle down. It wouldn’t happen to matter that we have a nationally accredited university in our midst (The University of Toledo), as well as two Fortune 500 companies (Owens Illinois and The Dana Corporation), which is much more than some cities our size can boast. Still, these companies offer a very limited amount of opportunity for the graduates of said university.

Suffice it to say that Toledo has one thing going more for itself than anything else…potential. Being placed in the middle of larger cities such as Detroit, Michigan and Cleveland, Ohio is not a good enough answer for those people that are looking for prospective places to land. To understand what Toledo has to offer is to know the people.

Budding politicians, writers, musicians and artists of every kind reside in these here walls, and there is plenty of motivation and desire to make all of the right things happen.
The short-term effects of brain drain seem to have the community jaded as to what the final outcome will be.

If there were more of a common unity, perhaps we could all change the face of our city. Without this unity, we are most definitely fated to fail, and that impending doom is the biggest factor in our loss of moral, as well as being the largest ingredient in our unavoidable death.

1.11.2005


Don't Believe the Hype Posted by Hello

1.10.2005

Is Reality T.V. bad for Hip Hop ?



Forget about Hip Hop being mainstream, it’s nearly becoming the only stream.
It’s hard to tell where pop culture ends and Hip Hop influence begins.
The slang, the music, the attitude and the overall energy of our movement has been injected into commercials for Volvo, breakfast cereals and all types of madness.
A cartoon Colonel Sanders (who I think looks too much like a plantation owner, but maybe I’m buggin) even gets his thug thizzle on by rapping in a commercial for Kentucky Fried Chicken. But you know what, all this is okay. Yeah, it’s alright that rappers sell deodorant, energy drinks (which they usually own) and cosmetics.
Like Jadakiss said ‘the industry is designed to keep the artist in debt’ so if they gotta play pitchmen to feed their kids then that’s okay. But when is it not okay?
Reality television shows have a lot in common with Hip Hop when you think about it.
Both were treated like the awkward stepchild by forms of media that they soon began to dominate. Virtually no one watches sitcoms anymore and the viewing public has such an insatiable appetite for reality T.V. shows that networks just slap any assortment of nonsense on film and then shove it straight into our living rooms. I’m sure theatre majors are all over the U.S. are pulling their hair out. It’s bad enough rappers take all the acting jobs, but now even most shows on the small screen feature characters that Joe and Sally Sixpack can relate to now more than ever before… Joe and Sally Sixpack themselves. Whether they’re getting a makeover, a new house, a chance at stardom, a dream job or a shot at meeting someone “special”; it’s obvious that Joe and Sally Sixpack love watching themselves on T.V.
However, V.H.1 threw us a curve. Noticing that average schmoes love watching themselves on television partly because of our society’s obsession with celebrities, this network decided to take has-been stars on their way back to becoming “average schmoes” and put them in reality T.V. shows of their own. “The Surreal Life” is a show that takes a handful of people who used to be household names (for one reason or another) and puts them under the same roof and waits for their eccentric personalities and individual weirdness to turn into T.V. magic. Okay, that’s no big right ? But when I started watching the second season of “The Surreal Life” I was astonished to see my boy Flavor Flav falling for the okie doke.
For the Hip Hop Generation, Flavor Flav is royalty.
Alongside Chuck D, Flavor Flav was the hype-man who defined hype-men.
You know the story. Peeps would say “well, why does that guy always wear a clock around his neck?” – BECAUSE HE KNOWS WHAT TIME IT IS, BOYEEE !
Public Enemy’s message of self-empowerment through knowledge would’ve been over most folks heads had they not stopped to see what the dude in the loud colors and crazy sunglasses was twitching for. Just think about his erratic movements, like some B-boy from outer space but he had a mic just like Chuck so obviously he needed to be heard.
Dude was mad important to the learning process of Hip Hop listeners around the globe.
So you can imagine the conflicted emotions I felt watching him run around with a brass Viking helmet chilling with former New Kids on the Block member Jordan Knight, and “Joey” from Full House. Even weirder was Flavor Flav’s love affair with a six-foot-two white woman named Brigitte Nielsen. The two slap each other one minute, and tongue each other down the next. Brigitte hardly wore any clothes on her 50+ yr. old body and although she fronted on Flav for being too eccentric at times she is at least as bizarre as he is on many levels. For those of you who watched this, you feel me.
It was entertaining at times, but something about it was just… wrong.
First season American Idol favorite, Ryan Starr, was also in The Surreal Life house and she made it very obvious that she just didn’t like Flav. On one incident she challenged his relevance in music and he had to put her in her place reminding her “I’m an icon, baby”.
Proclaiming many times that she hates R&B and Hip Hop, it came as no surprise that Ryan didn’t know who she was dealing with. As for Brigitte and Flavor Flav, their antics have earned them their very own show entitled “Strange Love” so more sloppy kisses and temper tantrums are on the way. The Surreal Life’s new season throws So So Def veteran Da Brat in a house with a bunch of yahoos and Biz Markie joins VH1’s Celebrity Fit Club to try and sweat off a few pounds while America watches. Maybe I’m being over-protective, but I wonder if mainstream America got a chance to know Da Brat or Biz Markie as artists in their respective heydays. Do the people at VH1 know these stars the way we know them or are they just important because they used to be important?
Perhaps they are more relevant to the masses as reality T.V. throwaways then they were as emcees. But then again, folks gotta eat and not many 90’s Hip Hop luminaries have sold many records lately so I can’t knock their hustle. I just hope that we don’t pimp so many rides that we forget how little else we control. I just hope that making the band can involve making the band work instead of making the band look like whining simpletons who argue more than they create. If you see me on some reality show ten years from now, you’ll know something went wrong.
Peace.

1.04.2005

TOLEDO HIP HOP 101: DJ MIXX

TOLEDO HIP HOP 101 is a regular installment of articles exploring the history, people, music, and culture of Toledo's vast Hip Hop community.


MOMENT OF SILENCE
Remembering the “Dick Clark” of Toledo Hip-Hop; DJ MIXX

On October 20th 2004, a deafening silence fell on Toledo’s Hip-Hop community as we laid to rest our emissary, DJ Mixx.

Traditionally we ask for a moment of silence at a time like this. But for those of us who were blessed by his presence, the “moment” feels like an eternity.

“I’m a DJ mute,” laments DJ Lightning Rod. This man’s grief is exceptional. For 14 years, Mixx and Lightening Rod rocked every club the Glass City offered.
From Lodeana’s, to the Drop Zone, to the Blueprint, Mixx and Rod were our very own Eric B and Rakim; Mixx on the mic and Rod on the cuts.

“I didn’t need to talk,” Rod says. “He was my mouth. And I was the hands. Like one person. It’s all bad now. I’m a DJ mute without my mouthpiece.”

Mixx may not have been a rapper but he was a true Master of Ceremonies. His sincere character made the party feel like a weekly family reunion. “As soon as he grabbed the mic the atmosphere changed,” Rod recalls. “He knew everybody, so when you walked in the place you were acknowledged like you were V.I.P. It made you feel like somebody.”

At 44, Mixx had garnished the respect of Toledo’s DJ elite. Along with Lightning Rod, he paved the way for a new era of Hip-Hop DJs such as Keith Success, Kaj Boogie, J-Roc, One1XTyme, and others.

The veteran gave Rod the nod in 1990 when he pronounced Rod as the winner of an impromptu DJ battle at Lodeana’s. When the dust settled, Mixx candidly told his blood brother, Dirty Red, “Man, dude beat you.”

Rod describes the significance of his judgment as, “if [Henry] Ford was around today and said, ‘Hey this is a great car or a great truck’, somebody would really take that to heart.”

“On the Hip-Hop scene Mixx [was] like the Dick Clark of Hip-Hop.”

And to think, his passing seemingly went unnoticed by the Toledo community at large. Hip-Hop heads like me were mortified when they discovered that Mixx’s face didn’t adorn the cover of any news publication (Black or White) the day after his death.

This happened because his humble demeanor gave the impression he was a commoner. Mixx always carried his nobility with distinction and humility. He wasn’t your atypical, iced out, egotistical rapper perched high on his 24 inch rims. He worked a 9 to 5 grind like the rest of us and showed up at the club fashionably late around 11 o’clock just like everyone else. And like the rest of us he met the fate that we all must face one day.

But unlike the rest of us, Mixx’s absence leaves a deafening void in Toledo’s Hip-Hop scene. “Nobody will ever take his place,” Rod declares. “[Other DJs] in the house don’t even want to get on the mic. They don’t feel right. And I don’t blame them.”

To drive this point home, the last microphone Mixx ever touched has been mounted on a plaque at the Blueprint, never to be used again.

So the next time you’re at a club or listening to the radio and the DJ asks you to remember the death of some dead and gone icon like Biggie or Tupac, take a moment to commemorate your native son.
Put two fingers in the air for my man DJ Mixx.

To explore Toledo Hip Hop even more, visit ToledoHipHop.org


1.02.2005

Through The Looking Glass

Peace, it's ya boy Mercury - happy to be sharing this with my mans Illateef.

Regardless of the outcome of the so-called "Decision 04"
I still feel that Toledo,Ohio is a place that could become known all across the world as a center for social change.

Being among the 50 or so largest cities in the country
(and the U.S. is comprised of over two-thousand cities)
I think it's disheartening that we lack a clear identity.

Toledo, at times, just feels like....blah.

But if you pay attention, all types of shit happens in this city. All types of shit that hardly happens anywhere else.

In a city that is 23-25% African American,
we manage to have an African American Mayor, African American Chief of the Fire Department, African American
Public Schools Superintendent and so on.
Many government officials and media personalties in Toledo
are African American men and women, as well as Hispanic Men and Women.

That's hot, even if the folks in those positions make mistakes - it's still nice to know that our city boasts some signs of progressive thinking.

Gloria Steinam, an internationally recognized author and supporter of the Womens Rights Movement is from Toledo.

W.J.U.C., is one of very few independently owned radio stations in the country, and it's black owned and operated right here in the 4-1-9.

The historic boycott against Mount Olive Pickles,
a brand of pickles that puts it's product on the shelves of grocery stores around the country but treated it's Mexican field hands like modern day slaves....well that company has buckled under the grassroots initiative to force them to allow their workers to unionize and give the immigrants who pick their pickles a fair wage, access to health services and other "normal" working conditions....
the organization responsible for giving those people a victory is none other than Toledo-based Farm Labor Organizing Committee (F.L.O.C.)

These points and many others i could mention should
make the thinking person happy to know that our fair city is doing positive things.

Yeah, we need development downtown.
Yeah, the prevailing mindset is what i call the
"wait for someone else to do it then follow it" mentality.
But even still....

Toledo IS in fact a center for change.

Keep watchin.

Peace.