Welbeck

Timothy N. Welbeck, Esq.

 

Publications

 

academic

The Gospel According to ‘Ye: Kanye West, The Life of Pablo, and Authentic Christianity,” You Gon’ Learn Today: Aesthetics of Christian Hip-Hop (Pending Publication)

People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths to Rhythms: Hip-Hop’s Continuation of the Enduring Tradition of African and African-American Rhetorical Forms and Tropes,” Straight Outta English special edition of Changing English (CEN) Routledge Taylor and Francis

You’re Nobody, ‘til somebody kills you: The Role of Hip-Hop in the Criminalization of Black” Men,” Imhotep Journal

articles and essays

The magnificence of ‘Black Panther’ is in its re-imagining of Africa

WHYY February 20, 2018

“Dad, when you lived in Ghana, did lions ever walk into your village, walk to your hut and try to eat you?” I asked my father one Saturday afternoon shortly after spending the morning leisurely watching some of my favorite cartoons.

“No, Timothy. The only lions I ever saw in Africa were in the zoo,” he responded tersely. “Africa is not like that. I didn’t live in a village; I lived in a city. And Accra is a city, just like the one we live in now.”

As he abruptly left the room, I could perceive his angst, but it would take me years to fully comprehend it.

You may read the article in its entirety by clicking here.

All Things Work Together

The Huffington Post 9/29/2017

28 “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

Romans 8:28

All things have, and all things will, work together for Lecrae Devaugh Moore; he is confident of that once more. A volatile childhood replete with the type of experiences that often morph children into statistics—single parent rearing, absent father, frequent uprooting, emotionally-scarring sexual abuse, a dalliance with peddling illicit drugs—did not land him in a prison or an early grave. It gave him an intimate view of how “crooked sticks draw straight lines.” The decision to foray out on his own with his music led him to co-found a fledgling independent record label with a long-time friend. That label defied the odds, and became a behemoth within ten years of its founding. When his adoring fan base began to question his motives, integrity, and the genuineness of his faith, their pestering doubt, and vitriolic slander wounded him deeply, but did not extinguish the passion smoldering within him. The conviction that sprung forth from that passion fills most of the bars and sentences of his latest work. When he, along with the rest of the world, saw the harrowing images of unarmed African American men killed by police officers with impunity, he saw himself in the lifeless frames of Eric GarnerMichael BrownTamir RiceJonathan Crawford, et al. Their untimely demises reminded him of his own mortality, and the perpetual threat of racially-charged, state-sanctioned violence. The weight of it all fueled an urgency in Lecrae to use his gifts to combat the scourge of his day, but before he arrived at that place, he nearly walked away from it all.

With loving aid from a handful of devoted friends and family, he climbed out of the depths of despondency invigorated by the hope rekindled from their heart-warming support in those trying moments. He describes these difficult times, along with a host of others, in vivid detail on his widely celebrated eighth studio album, aptly entitled All Things Work Together. The album will reacquaint him with the world in a more intimate fashion. Everything has worked together for him, he knows it, and he is intent on showing it. All Things Work Together is the soundtrack to the how and why.

You may read the article in its entirety by clicking here.

Essay: I Am Not My Hair

WHYY News Works Speak Easy 9/22/2017

Don't touch my hair, when it's the feelings I wear
Don't touch my soul, when it's the rhythm I know
Don't touch my crown, they say the vision I've found
Don't touch what's there, when it's the feelings I wear
—Solange, "Don't Touch My Hair"

"Mom, may I get extensions one day?" my eldest daughter asked my wife Rashida last Saturday afternoon shortly after Rashida began the tedious task of doing her hair.

The two sat in our living room; my daughter slumped in our oblong, cerulean armchair, thumbing through a book that had grabbed her attention. Rashida dutifully perched above her, kneeling in a folding chair, meticulously plowing a rat-tailed comb through the dense forest sprouting forth from our daughter's scalp. I, seated on the opposite end of the room, overheard the exchange, and called her over to me.

I looked into her little mahogany-drenched eyes and said, "Leilani, your hair is perfect just the way it is. The color, texture, length, volume, are exactly how God intended for them to be, and it is beautiful. You have your whole life to figure out how you want to wear your hair, and try new styles and techniques, but it is important for me to remind you that your hair is beautiful exactly the way it is."

You may read the rest of the essay by clicking here.

Essay: Someone was watching over me on my first traffic stop for driving while black

WHYY News Works Speak Easy 9/22/2017

The past several years have brought renewed attention to racial profiling, and the epidemic of police brutality. To that end, scores of prominent African American men have come forward to share their personal experiences with racial profiling, including President ObamaEric HolderQuestloveChris Rock, and Tyler Perry. What follows is my personal account of racial profiling, which I experienced on or about Dec. 22, 2002. It has become one of many for me, and seemed appropriate to share during the course of these debates.

"Yes, I am going to yell at you!"

The officer’s words shot from his lips, pierced the brisk night air, and struck me like a slap to the cheek. I turned the other to better look him in the eyes.

My brain scurried to unearth answers to the persistent questions "Why? Why am I outside in the cold while this officer berates me? Why did he pull me over in the first place? Why is he still yelling — but, more importantly, why is there nothing I can do about it?"

Failing to produce a viable explanation, I sought solace elsewhere, for as Toni Morrison once wrote, "Since why is difficult to handle, one must take refuge in how."

You may read the article in its entirety by clicking here.

A SEat At the Table

The Huffington Post 4/26/2017

“It is a curious thing to exist in this Black female body. We are the very embodiment of intersectionality. Navigating the attendant oppression that comes along with our Black and female identities and the multitudinous ways they converge and constrain us is a birthright thrust upon us by virtue of the fact that we were born Black and female.”

-Ekemini Uwan Black Gold

“I tried to drink it away/I tried to put one in the air/I tried to dance it away/I tried to change my hair...”

-Solange Cranes in the Sky

“We are glad you spoke at our conference. Please don’t mention our name with your talk so we don’t lose donors,” Ekemini Uwan has heard that before, and imagines she will hear it again. She recently shared the aforesaid quote in one of her piercing Twitter threads as an example of the types of critiques and dismissals she and other black women often encounter within the hallowed halls of our nation’s churches. In her role as a public intellectual, Ekemini has developed a reputation for speaking truth to power, and navigating the nuances of marginalized people, as she advocates for their liberation. For example, she recently prompted a discourse on Twitter about the ways black Christian women suffer in public ministry and in the church via the hashtag #ThingsBlackChristianWomenHear (the above commentary arose from there). It illuminated a host of examples of institutional neglect and abuse. Particularly, quotes like, “*inbox message* I agree with you 100%. You are so brave and courageous, but I can’t show public support;” “Black pastors: I love your work and your social media presence but you scare me;” “You are so articulate and poised. I thought you were going to get up there and scream, shout, and sass;” “We paid *insert male celeb pastors name* thousands of dollars so we can’t pay you, but you’ll get exposure,” et cetera. permeated the thread. The conversation Ekemini began on Twitter Friday April 21st elicited hundreds of responses, and exposed some of the painful experiences many black women experience within scared spaces across America.

“Truth divides,” Ekemini Uwan recently asserted in another recent Twitter thread; however, that has not hindered her willingness to preach it. This steadfast resolve to stand firmly entrenched on the side of truth, coupled with an unwavering commitment to serve ample portions of rectitude, regardless of the opposition and the vitriol it foments, notwithstanding the cost it imposes, has become a calling for Ekemini, one she shares with Michelle Higgins and Christina Edmondson. Once that serving of truth inevitably rents fissures in the anemic artifice of our fragmented union, Michelle, Christina, and Ekemini invite you to sit with them at the table they have heartily hewn with their arduous labor. That table is Truths Table.

You may read the article in its entirety by clicking here.

james gardin wants to take you to "the promise land"

Respect Magazine 2/3/2017

James Gardin’s year is off to a great start.  He recently signed to indie powerhouse, Illect Records, had his single played on Hot97, passed HipHopDX’s Litness test, opened for GRAMMY-Nominated group KING, et cetera.  James recently sat down with attorney, university professor, and contributing writer Timothy Welbeck to discuss his recent label signing, his new single (and its inspiration), his eclectic approach to music, his passion for service and much more. What follows is the better part of their conversation.

You may read the article in its entirety by clicking here.

jered sanders is nobody famous

Respect Magazine 2/3/2017

Jered Sanders is at it again.  The prolific Virginia emcee has added another strong offering to his impressive catalog with the album Nobody Famous.  Jered recently sat down with attorney, university professor, and contributing writer Timothy Welbeck to discuss his recent album and its motivation, writing rhymes between work and daddy-duty, why he’s nobody famous (even though more people find out who he is everyday), and much more. What follows is the better part of their conversation.

You may read this article in its entirety by clicking here.

None of the Crayons Matched My Skin

The Philadelphia Inquirer 1/30/2017

During an enrichment activity in my kindergarten class, I learned how the world viewed me. “Black” was the name it would call me. My teacher, Ms. Crowder, instructed the class to use a box of crayons and a sheet of  paper to draw a picture of ourselves.  The task seemed simple, until Ms. Crowder handed me a box of crayons.

I pulled crayon after crayon out of the box, placing each next to my arm, anxiously searching for the one that best mirrored my complexion.  To my dismay, I found none. One crayon remotely matched the pigmentation in my skin, and upon discovering it, I began drawing my self-portrait. After I finished, the young man sitting next to me found my portrait wanting for accuracy. “What are you doing, coloring yourself peach?” he exclaimed. “You’re not white.

“You’re black,” he said, handing me a black crayon. “Here, use this.”

You may read the article in its entirety by clicking here.

"The Gospel According to 'Ye: Kanye West, The Life of Pablo, and Authentic Christianity"

The Huffington Post 12/21/2016

“Kanye’s best prodigy/He ain’t signed me, but he’s proud of me”
-Chance the Rapper Blessings (Reprise)

“I made Jesus Walks, I ain’t never goin’ ta hell ... “
-Kanye West Otis

Following a string of bizarre behavior last month—hallmarked by a protracted, stream of conscious tirade targeting Beyoncé and Jay Zsignaling support for Donald Trump’s looming presidency, and abruptly ending the Sacramento stop of his Life of Pablo tour—Kanye West voluntarily submitted to hospitalization and a psychiatric evaluation, citing sleep deprivation and exhaustion. While officials at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles discharged Kanye West about two weeks ago, his reported bout with depression and paranoia caused him to cancel the remainder of his North American tour dates, in addition to the European leg of his tour. The entire episode has caused people to reflect on the “tragedy and triumph” of Kanye West’s storied career, and its precipitous decline. Ostensibly, the first verse of J. Cole’s False Prophets serves as the most visible example of this line of commentary. Others used Kanye’s hospitalization to opine on how it demonstrates the need to have a more comprehensive discourse on the mental health of young African American men. Scores more encouraged people to “pray for Kanye,” most notably Chance the Rapper, who offered an inspired prayer for his beloved mentor during a BBC Radio appearanceand canceled his remaining European tour dates, possibly to be by Kanye’s side. Chance knows, like many of us do, Kanye needs Jesus.

You may read the the article in its entirety by visiting here.

"Sho Baraka challenges conventional paradigms on race, culture and faith with 'The Narrative' "

Rapzilla 11/16/2016

In the spring of 1852, Harriet Beecher Stowe published her seminal work, Uncle Tom’s Cabin (also called Life Among the Lowly). Uncle Tom’s Cabin was a towering, fictional tale, revolving around the life of “Uncle Tom,” that sought to affix a personal face onto the horrors of chattel slavery. The book became wildly popular, and has become widely credited with inspiring throngs of abolitionists to take up the cause of freedom.

While Stowe may have had noble ambitions, Uncle Tom’s Cabin teems with shortcomings. James Baldwin once called the novel a “very bad novel” full of “excessive and spurious emotion.”

Much of the criticism of the work flows from the idea that Stowe depicted her enslaved subjects in paternalistic, patronizing ways. Moreover, many chided the work, and its broad reception because many slaves voiced their lament themselves, documenting their cry for freedom in poetry, riveting public speeches, and a genre of memoir known as slave narratives.

One such work is Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, published seven years prior to Stowe’s novel.

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass was a moving account penned by Douglass himself that chronicles the demeaning time he spent as property of Captain Aaron Anthony, his bold escape to freedom, and his extraordinary life as one of the nation’s foremost abolitionists. In many ways, Douglass’ writings functioned as an authentic precursor to Uncle Tom’s Cabin. In essence, there would be no need for a novel like Uncle Tom’s Cabin if people heeded the writings of an actual slave narrative rather than an imagined one.

Narratives are powerful. They shape our perception of reality, and frame our means for processing the world we encounter.

You may read the article in its entirety by clicking here.

The Narrative

The Huffington Post 11/15/2016

Frederick Douglass was born in “Tuckahoe, near Hillsborough, and about twelve miles from Easton, in Talbot county, Maryland” circa 1818. He had “no accurate knowledge of [his] age,” because he never saw “any authentic record containing it,” and further observed “the larger part of the slaves know as little of their ages as horses.” He begins his iconic autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave with those riveting anecdotes. He then fills its pages with heartbreaking details of his lot as property of Captain Aaron Anthony, his courageous quest to secure his freedom, and the remarkable life he lived thereafter. Frederick Douglass’ narrative, like scores of other slave narratives, became instrumental in communicating the plight of “millions of his manacled brethren, yet panting for deliverance” in that their firsthand accounting of the the horrors of chattel slavery, and the urgent need to abolish it, became a clarion call for the cause of freedom.

You may read the article in its entirety by clicking here.

The Souls of Black Folk

The Huffington Post 8/11/2016

“Between me and the other world there is ever an unasked question: unasked by some through feelings of delicacy; by others through the difficulty of rightly framing it. All, nevertheless, flutter round it. They approach me in a half- hesitant sort of way, eye me curiously or compassionately, and then, instead of saying directly, How does it feel to be a problem?”
-W.E.B. D Bois The Souls of Black Folk

“How does it feel to be a problem?” William Edward Burghardt Du Bois asked this probing question more than a century ago in the first chapter of his seminal work, The Souls of Black Folk. Naturally, the problem of which Du Bois spoke, the problem of Du Bois’ day, revolved around the experience of “the Negro” existing as a “seventh son” of sorts, positioned at the bottom of the totem pole of racial stratification—seated beneath “the Egyptian and Indian, the Greek and Roman, the Teuton and Mongolian.” As Du Bois mused in his acclaimed work, this seventh son “born with a veil, and gifted with second-sight in this American world,” uniquely grasped “a true self-consciousness,” one that required “measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity.” Whether one simply said, “I know an excellent colored man in my town;” or “I fought at Mechanicsville;” or asked, “Do not these Southern outrages make your blood boil?” Du Bois keenly understood those residents of “the other world” all sought a way to frame their underlying question, “How does it feel to be a problem?”

You may read the article in its entirety by clicking here.

Brooklyn's Finest

The Huffington Post 6/29/2016

“Brooklyn, New York City, where they paint murals of Biggie... “
-Talib Kweli Definition

While few would argue hip-hop emerged from the South Bronx when Clive Campbell and his older sister Cindy decided to host a party in the recreation room of their apartment building located at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue on August 11, 1973, Brooklyn is hip-hop’s most decorated, most celebrated borough. Home of the Notorious B.I.G., Jay Z, Big Daddy Kane, Special Ed, Fat Boys, Masta Ace, AZ, OC, MCA from the Beastie Boys, Black Moon and the whole Boot Camp Clik, Jeru tha Damaja, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Gang Starr, Foxy Brown, MC Lyte, Fabolous, Jean Grae, MOP, Joell OrtizPoison PenSkyzoo, Joey Bad@$$, and a host of others; Brooklyn has cast a long shadow that has sprawled across the globe, pushing hip-hop culture forward in unimaginable ways. Certainly hip-hop’s rise from obscurity is a tale of New York.

You may read the article in its entirety by clicking here.

j. kwest lemonade interview

Sphere of Hip-Hop 6/20/2016

About fifteen years ago, during the fall of my sophomore year at Morehouse College, I helped organize an open mic on Spelman College’s campus in conjunction with a campus ministry. The night of the open mic, a freshman from Chicago came through stole the show with his seamless flow, insightful lyrics, and infectious energy pouring out over a pounding beat. That rapper was J. Kwest. We stayed in touch, and throughout our time in undergrad, we shared the stage countless other times. After graduation, I worked for an educational nonprofit in Atlanta, later moved to Philadelphia for law school, got married, had children, began practicing law, and now am a university professor. J moved back to Chicago, turning down Harvard so he could pursue his music, ultimately went to seminary, got married, had a daughter, and is now a pastor in Hyde Park. Somehow, both of us kept rapping. J has continued refreshing the world with his unique brand of “pure music”, and to that end has released his third studio album, entitled Lemonade.

Released on Thanksgiving Day, Lemonade is a rousing fusion of J. Kwest’s signature ebullient content sprinkled with probing insights into the world in which we live. It is a great album, and fitting capstone to a great year for ‘Kwest (he won an Emmy for his participation in a project called Strange Fruit, became a writer for Huffington Post, and has a chapter in an upcoming publication). J. Kwest recently sat down with me to talk about his most recent album Lemonade, along with its theme, the album’s inspiration, the current climate in Chicago, Chi-raq, and more. In short, the pastor and the professor had a conversation encouraging you to “drink more water and have some Lemonade“. What follows is the better part of that conversation.

You may read the article in its entirety by clicking here.

Father's Day

The Huffington Post 6/18/2016

“Honor thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise;”
-Ephesians 6:2

“Happy Father’s Day,” I whispered to my father, and hastily hung up the phone, briskly ending our bittersweet exchange. I looked at my wife in a dither, the flustered look in her eyes revealed the depth of her anguish. We embraced. I squeezed her tightly, and as I did, I felt the warmth of her tears sliding from her eyes, down her cheek, then mine, before ultimately pooling on my shoulder. She began sobbing. I finally relented from my feeble attempt to restrain my frazzled emotions. We wept together. This was not how I anticipated spending Father’s Day

You may read the article in its entirety by clicking here.

Someday We'll All Be Free

The Huffington Post 4/27/2016

“Hang on to the world as it spins around/Just don’t let the spin get you down/Things are moving fast/Hold on tight and you will last ... “
-Donny Hathaway Someday We’ll All Be Free

Chloe Long no longer desired to live. She filled her slender hands with a legion of pills, cupped them together, and then stared down longingly at the tiny capsules cradled by her ten fragile digits. In that moment, her clasped hands seemed like the only portion of her life still together.

You may read the article in its entirety by clicking here.

"Me, Myself, and i: Kendrick Lamar, The Politics of REspectability, and the Culture of REsistance"

The Huffington Post 3/21/2016

“Racists will always call you a racist when you identify their racism. To love yourself now - is a form of racism...” — John Henrik Clarke

“There are people who dislike you because you do not dislike yourself.” — Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

A little more than a year ago, Kendrick Lamar Duckworth drew the ire of a significant portion of his loyal supporters due to comments he made to Gavin Edwards in an interview published by Billboard magazine. In the interview, when asked about whether he had received unfair treatment from police officers, Kendrick responded by saying, “[P]lenty of times. All the time.”

You may read the article in its by clicking here.

An Epidemic Akin Unto Lynching Pt. 2

The Huffington Post 3/8/2016

Author’s Note: This post is the second part of an article series of the same name. You may read the first part here.

“Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck/For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck/For the sun to rot, for the tree to drop/Here is a strange and bitter crop”
-Billie Holiday Strange Fruit

From Sanford to Long Island, from Long Island to Ferguson, from Ferguson to Cleveland, from Cleveland to Chicago, our nation has received copious reminders in the past few years that its inability to crawl out of its racial quagmire has fatal consequences for many. While certainly it remains difficult to compare and accurately analyze data from different time periods and develop definitive conclusions or causal links, it goes without saying the United States’ epidemic of police brutality has deep historical roots, because “the intersection of racial dynamics and the criminal justice system is one of longstanding duration.” In other words, instances where police brutality occur often fall along racial lines due to our nation’s tortuous history with racial stratification.

You may read the article in its by clicking here.

An Epidemic Akin Unto Lynching Pt. 1

The Huffington Post 3/3/2016

“You can truly grieve for every officer who’s been lost in the line of duty in this country, and still be troubled by cases of overreach. Those two ideas are not mutually exclusive. You can have great regard for law enforcement and still want them to be held to high standards.”
-Jon Stewart The Daily Show

Nearly thirty years to the day “NBC took a huge gamble ... [putting] a strong, loving and successful Black family on prime-time television,” ABC rolled the dice in similar fashion by launching a series chronicling a black family’s quest to “establish a sense of cultural identity ... that honors their past while embracing the future.” With The Cosby Show, NBC landed an iconic television series that firmly reinforced “the widely held virtues of the nuclear family,” and radically altered the portrayal of blacks on the small screen, by offering a “30-minute refuge from some of the negative imagery found on television.” ABC’s `Black•ish seeks to continue this legacy by depicting an innocuous, yet nuanced portrayal of the black family that seeks to illustrate a multi-dimensional portrayal of blackness. Nevertheless, while The Cosby Show shied away from tackling some of the more provocative issues of its day: the crack-cocaine epidemic, AIDS, and escalating homicide rates within the black community; `Black•ish has elected to approach some of the pressing issues of its day directly. In this regard, `Black•ish‘s deviation from its predecessor become quite clear with its latest episode.

You may read the article in its entirety by clicking here.

"All Eyes on us: Meek Mill's Legal Troubles, Hip-Hop, and the Narrative of Black criminality"

The Huffington Post 1/19/2016

“But now it’s all eyes on me/And it all lies on me...”
-Meek Mill All Eyes on Us

Crestfallen at the prospects of returning to prison following recent parole violations, Robert Rahmeek “Meek Mill” Williams reportedly wept bitterly as he pleaded with Court of Common Pleas Judge Genece E. Brinkley to exercise leniency in her sentencing of him. In testimony that lasted more than hour, he reportedly said, “I’m not a gangsta. But I’m not a perfect man ... I have the potential to be greater than I am today ... I walk around with my queen, Nicki [Minaj]. Things are different now. I act different. I walk different. I can be the biggest rapper in the world.” The testimony, remarkable in its vulnerability, stood in stark contrast to the peccant bravado from some of his most current work. The entire episode is emblematic of the paradoxical relationship between hip-hop and the narrative of black criminality.

You may read the article in its entirety by clicking here.

"A Sickness unto death: TAmir Rice, Affluenza, and the erasure of black childhood"

The Huffington Post 1/18/2016

“A sick thought can devour the body’s flesh more than fever or consumption.” 
-Guy de Maupassant, Le Horla et autres contes fantastiques

“I won’t rest until black children are taught to love themselves as themselves.”
-Dr. Frances Cress Welsing

Few recent stories elucidate the inherent, unrelenting racial disparities in our nation’s criminal justice system, and their fatal consequences, than the juxtaposition of the announcement from Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty that a grand jury “declined to bring criminal charges [against Officers Timothy Loehman and Frank Garmback]” in the death of Tamir Rice, and the announcement Jalisco authorities captured Ethan Couch in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. The announcements came the same day.

You may read the article in its entirety by clicking here.

"Sean C. Johnson talks Circa 1993"

Sphere of Hip-Hop 3/10/2015

Every hero has an origin, a point at which he/she mustered the resolve to use their time, energy, and abilities for the greater good of others. It is these tales that often captivate us more than a hero’s ability to “leap buildings in a single bound”, or move “faster than a speeding bullet”. These tales remind us that even the grandest of heroes often have humble beginnings. Bruce Wayne was born in a hospital in Gotham City, and subsequently whisked away to the palatial Wayne Manor, where his parents, Thomas and Martha Wayne, reared him with a silver spoon in his mouth. Notwithstanding, Batman was born in Crime Alley when Bruce Wayne witnessed an unnamed thief violently murder his parents one cold evening. Kal-El was born on Krypton, the son of scientist Jor-El. Yet Superman was born when Jor-El rocketed an infant Kal-El to Earth moments before Krypton’s ultimate destruction, and the Kents later found that tiny infant in a spacecraft that crashed near their home in Smallville, Kansas. This list could go on indefinitely with tales of how our heroes became who we know them to be. The same could be said for Sean C. Johnson.

You may read this article in its entirety by clicking here.

Interview: R-Swift

Revolutionary Ink 8/2013

R-Swift is under pressure. His latest release, Apply Pressure is his first full-length studio album since his departure from Cross Movement Records.  Its release follows a near four-year hiatus from releasing solo albums and undoubtedly will face comparisons to his previous work with regard to their commercial success and critical acclaim.  Wrestling with the weight of those expectations, a lack of institutional support, occasional doubt of his listeners, along with his recent move from the place he once called home, all have placed a tremendous strain on Swift.  He responded admirably to the strain, and it shows forth, in part, in his music.


The album’s content tackles the internal struggles R-Swift faced in creating the album, while simultaneously seeking to apply pressure to society to force it to confront the forgotten (or ignored) ills that plague it.  In other moments, he simply seeks to “apply pressure” to opened wounds in the culture, to begin the healing process.  Sonically, the album thumps with soulful reinterpretations of the traditional boom-bap rhythmic patterns that became a staple of East Coast rap music.

You may read this article in its entirety by clicking here.

Review: W.L.A.K.

Rapzilla 3/22/2013

In a genre where an iconic figure has referred to himself as the “God MC” for over a decade, another has referred to himself as “The King of the South” for nearly the same period of time, a legendary duo from Port Arthur, TX elected to name its collective effort “Underground Kingz” over two decades ago, and a budding superstar refers to himself as “King Remembered in Time,” it should come as no surprise that a rising cadre of artists would boldly declare they “live as kings.” In short, bravado and braggadocio have long since been acquainted with the musings of rappers, it is almost a prerequisite for ascending to a certain stature. Nevertheless, Collision Records’ boast is not of themselves or their collective output, but rather their boast is in the Lord. As Alex Faith states on the album’s first song, “He only gave us crowns so we can put ‘em at His feet.” “We live as kings,” then has become a declaration of joint inheritance with Christ and the rallying cry of their chart topping album bearing the same name.

You may read the article in its entirety by clicking here.

Interview: Sho baraka

Revolutionary Ink 1/2013

In the fall of 1903, William Edward Burghardt Du Bois famously penned an article entitled The Talented Tenth” for the Negro Problem: A Series of Articles by Representative Negroes of To-day.   In it, he argued, “the Negro race, like all races, is going to be saved by its exceptional men.”  In writing his article, Du Bois found it his duty to demonstrate that this “talented tenth,” these “exceptional men,” were worthy of leadership, and that with the proper education and development, they too could remedy the problems plaguing the Negro. Over a century later, Du Bois’ words still carry great weight.  They also served as the inspiration for the title of Sho Baraka’s third studio album, which bears the same name.

The release marks a watershed moment in Sho Baraka’s career, as it is his first solo release since he left Reach Records in March of 2011.  Conceptually, the album itself promises to offer listeners a more in-depth perspective of Sho’s worldview and passion for remedying ills that plague urban communities, as he compels “exceptional leaders, who have the time, talent and treasure to take initiative for the benefit for others,” similarly to how Du Bois once did over a hundred years ago.  Sonically, the album is the capstone of a steady evolution in the Atlanta-based emcee’s career.  It is sure to leave listeners well pleased.

You may read this article in its entirety by clicking here.

interview: Conquest

Revolutionary Ink 12/2012

Around this time last month, New Jersey-based emcee CONQUEST released Radical Departure, his provocative fifth studio album.  Radical Departure, as its name suggests, is emblematic of CONQUEST’s new direction, as he endeavors to “'depart' from the things that has plagued his walk with God and his musical vision in the past.”  Sonically, the album fuses elements of the traditional boom-bap rhythmic patterns that became a fixture of New York rap with the pounding 808 drums that are a staple of many Southern rap anthems, along with elements of heavy metal, 80’s pop music, techno, classic rock and even a taste of classical music.  The album’s content addresses a bevy of topics from racism, loneliness, physical and sexual abuse, the loss of a dear friend and more.  Radical Departure has no guest appearances and for a reintroduction as personal as the album, it seems fitting.

For those unfamiliar, CONQUEST is prolific Tri-state based emcee (he has released four studio albums and four mixtapes since 2011, prior to releasing Radical Departure) with a reputation for inventive lyricism and intricate wordplay.  Counting Eminem, Mastodon, Lupe Fiasco, Underoath, Fiona Apple, Marvin Gaye, Hillsong United, Jay-Z and The Devil Wears Prada as influences, he blends hip-hop, soul, rock, heavy metal and alternative to create an unorthodox, yet commercially viable sound that embody the musings of either a “Christian hip-hop” artist or hip hop created by a Christian without separation.  CONQUEST and me recently spoke about Radical Departure and some its themes.

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"let the church say amen: sacred space and authentic christianity"

Revolutionary Ink 9/2012

Those who observe the towering edifice seated near the corner of Catharine Street and 8th Street in South Philadelphia will undoubtedly make an assumption about what takes place in this building.  The building’s rolling, Romanesque architecture, square pillars, vaulted ceilings, stained glass and reverent statues should give obvious clues as to what once occurred there. Those who look upon the building will presume those who enter are going to church.  

Decades ago, such a thought would not be so unfounded, as the building once housed a thriving Episcopalian congregation for thirty-six years.  Nevertheless, what will take place there before month’s end will fly in the face of any prior assumptions for activities occurring within the building.  Later this month, a woman known as “Mistress Zeneca” is hosting an event self-described as a “religious-themed [sexual] role-play party” filled with bondage, discipline, domination, submission, masochism and other forms of taboo sexual behavior.  In essence, Mistress Zeneca is hosting a sex party in what was once a place of worship.  

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2Pacalpyse Now

Hip-Hop Stardom 101 7/2011

“The tragedy of Tupac is that his untimely passing is representative of too many young black men in this country . . . If we had lost Oprah Winfrey at twenty-five, we would have lost a relatively unknown, local market TV anchorwoman.  If we had lost Malcolm X at twenty-five, we would have lost a hustler named Detroit Red.  If Martin Luther King died at twenty-five he would’ve been known as a local Baptist preacher.  And if I had left the world at twenty-five, we would have lost a big-band trumpet player and aspiring composer—just a sliver of my eventual life potential.”

-Quincy Jones

Quincy Jones penned those famous words as part of the foreword in the commemorative book Vibe Magazine issued in the fall of 1998 celebrating the life and legacy of slain rapper and actor Tupac Shakur.  As Mr. Jones astutely opined, an “untimely” death robbed legions of adoring fans, ardent critics and casual onlookers alike from the opportunity to observe how the rose that grew from concrete would ultimately bloom.  We will never learn what Tupac would have become were he still with us.  Nevertheless, one thing is certain, nearly fifteen years since his death, Tupac Amaru Shakur remains a cultural icon.

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