Capturing the culture that makes Detroit what it is.

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September 2014

Detroit is Different Podcast with Dr Robert Bland

in Detroit is Different Podcast by

Dr Robert Bland is one of the few people I’ve met that truly believes in the transformational strength of education. Following the Detroit is Different September 2014 theme of Education I couldn’t think of a better podcast guest to interview. His belief in the way knowledge can empower a person, family, and people are evident.

Dr Bland opens up about his story. Honoring first & foremost his mother as his master teacher, Dr Bland shares how reading, schooling, and working were always a part of his life. From his family Dr Bland developed a greater understanding of faith and Black history. This led to his commitment to love and share knowledge with others. Today Dr Bland stands on a foremost historian on the grim reality of America’s Middle Passage (the tragic kidnapping, capture, and enslavement of African peoples into Latin & North America).

I truly enjoyed hosting this interview. Dr Bland has been an inspiration for my life. His commitment and consistency towards his visions in life to become reality are monumental. I hope you can find the value in his message.

Around Detroit: John K King Used & Rare Books

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John K. King Used & Rare Books is one of my favorite places to visit in Detroit. The book store is the result of John K. King’s passion, developed over 50 years. King’s love for used and rare books blossomed overtime to now house tens of thousands of books for readers to appreciate.

Located in Downtown Detroit, King’s book store is a gem that’s world renown. Countless book enthusiasts list John K. King’s books as one of the best used book stores in the world. Over time, King has filled two four-story buildings (a cool analogy for a book store) with classic and unusual books for all ages.

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John K. King and John K. King Used & Rare Books

I personally enjoy visiting John K. King Books because of the vast array of subject matter. I first visited the book store in 2011. I’ve been in love with the store ever since. I’ve never been to King’s book store and spent less than two hours time selecting books to read. Visiting floor to floor exploring anything I can think of is a humbling experience. It’s as if King’s book store is a real life google search.

As a hip-hop artist, I believe it’s of dire importance that I gather an understanding of all contexts in life to relay into my songs. This process is also shared by Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, and the late Tupac Shakur, who have studied authors from Mark Twain to Dale Carnegie. The value I find in literature and lessons also strengthens my development in business as well. The more I’ve read, the more empowered my communication skills have become to apply to my business.

My favorite titles I’ve purchased from John K King’s book store are: an original print of “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” by Alex Haley; “My Life, My Work” by Henry Ford; and “The Franchise:: Building a winner with the World Champion Detroit Pistons, Basketball’s Bad Boys” by Cameron Stauth. I’m sure as I continue my visits to John King’s books, my list of favorite’s will change.

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John King currently has the same passion towards his collection. I asked King what were some of the titles he was most excited to get and he said, “I see all these books like they’re my babies, how can I like one more than the other.” Also King believes the culture of Detroit has helped the book store. “I’ve heard people claim Detroit has a 45% illiteracy rate. I don’t believe it. The more I’ve committed to the book store the more Detroit has led to it expanding,” John King.

John K King Used & Rare Books also holds many collections of autographs, anthologies, and papers. An original print of “The Fedaralists Papers” are held by John K King Used & Rare Books for the cost of $150,000.00 (The Fedaralist Papers are the collection of essays by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay urging the ratification of the United States of America and the Constitution.) Rare finds like that are only part of John King’s expansive collection which is reasonably priced. I’d imagine with $30 to spend you’d walk away with a stack of books you’re eager to open and from cover to cover. There are tens of thousands of books to choose from at John King’s book store, and he’s as much of a reader as his customers. Currently King is delving into Modern American poetry.

I urge of you to visit John K King’s Rare & Used Books when you have an opportunity to spend sometime Downtown Detroit. It’s located at 901 W Lafayette Detroit MI 48226 open Monday – Saturday 9:30am – 5:30pm.

Around Detroit: Techonomy Detroit 2014

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Tuesday September 16, 2014 Detroit was host of it’s third annual Techonomy Conference. Techonomy is a conference that provides the visions of how and why technology can help re-shape society. Since 2012 I’ve been an attendant through working for the Michigan Citizen Newspaper. I’ve always enjoyed the creativity and focus of Techonomy.

As Techonomy 2014 approached I eagerly sought out access to host podcast interviews. Through the support and assistance of Michigan Citizen Newspaper Publisher Catherine Kelly, Techonomy Director of Program Operations Tim Charters, and Edelman Marketing Coordinator Liz Leismer my Techonomy Detroit 2014 experience was amazing.

Partnering with The Michigan Citizen Newspaper I hosted a series of interviews with Techonomy participants. The interviews all explore the impact technology has had, does have, and could have upon Detroit. I enjoyed all the interviews thoroughly. I hope you appreciate these interviews as well.

(*All pictures used are for exclusive use of Techonomy Media)

Justin Fox NY Harvard Business Review

David Kirkpatrick Founder of Techonomy

Laura Mather Founder of Unitive

Justin Fox, David Kirkpatrick, and Gabriella Gomez-Mont
Justin Fox, David Kirkpatrick, and Gabriella Gomez-Mont

Charlie Molthrop American Venture Fellow

Gabriella Gomez-Mont Mexico City Chief Creativity Officer

Marlin Page Founder of Sisters Code

Arun Sundararajan, Marlin Page, and Liz Shuler
Arun Sundararajan, Marlin Page, and Liz Shuler

Elizabeth Shuler Secretary Treasurer of the AFL-CIO

Arun Sundararajan NYU Professor of Urban Science

Lyrical Breakdown: Living Proof (Young Black Youth)

in Lyric Breakdown & Background by

Living Proof (Young Black Youth)

Written by K. Frazier // Vocals performed by Khary WAE Frazier // Produced & Composed by Joe Black // Mixed by John Brown Jr. // Recorded at Sights & Sounds Studios Southfield MI & John Brown Jr. Studios //From the ‘Broken English Ideologies’ EP 2015


Kids looking up to me I don’t know what to tell them
Ain’t no options out here cause Detroit done failed them
. . .So I try to just listen
And offer them some love if they make a bad decision
Though I wish things was different
Hard for me to justify still living where I’m living
Doing what I’m doing and getting what I’m getting
In Detroit skies I can clearly see a ceiling

Performing hip-hop it’s many assumptions made about the benefits of the art form. One of the biggest I’ve always received from friends and strangers is that there is a collection of groupies connected to rap music. For my artistry I have not found anything close to that. Often then women who approach me have sons, nephews, or mentees who are young males they’d like me to meet. These younger artists are seeking ways to use hip-hop as a platform of opportunity. I have no map for success in hip-hop. At a younger age I believed in the market of hip-hop and music. Today I think a career as a music artist is a testament of virtue. Financial sustainability in music is dwindling more by the day. So I often challenge all younger artists to study the music and be creative.

Antiquated thoughts and old ideas
Of assembly lines and unionized men
Everything that’s left for the past 40 years
What the politicians say they can bring back here

I was born in 1982. During, and before my infancy many of the manufacturing plants that established the culture of Detroit in the 1950’s, 60’s, and 70’s were leaving the city limits. The impact of globalization of industrial jobs leaving America impacted Detroit first with surburnization (I’m coining a term Dr. Cornell West style). Most plants inside Detroit’s city limits closed and were relocated to places further from the city. This reality limited the access for work in Detroit. My whole life changes in public service residency laws, manufacturing plant closures, and retail outlet closures have consistently led to underemployment, unemployment, and lack of employment in Detroit for residents.

I’ve always found the idea of politicians ‘bringing jobs’ preposterous. It’s sad I think most politicians will say anything to be elected. I believe ‘jobs & careers’ are circumstantial variables based upon a business’ viability connected to that job/career. Michigan politicians have built political legacies upon the idea of ‘bringing back jobs.’ It’s tragic because Michigan’s prominence as the wealthiest state in the America throughout the 50’s and 60’s was built in the industrial age. The industrial age no longer exists.

Packard Plant, Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, and Good Times cast
Packard Plant, Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, and Good Times cast

And I wanna believe but its hard when you see
A college grads options just like a GED
And I wish things was different, . . .it ain’t up to me
I accept the worse, . .  it’s just what I think

Life ain’t fair and its worse if you Black
It’s the land of the free but the ghetto is a trap
it’s a state of mind not a place where we at
That don’t trust people but it will trust cash
we don’t understand how this philosophy is born
Evans family here what Plato was to Rome

I believe race is the most polarizing dynamic in America. The role of Black people in America initially being enslaved and discriminated against for centuries still impacts America. Many of the divisive policies, laws, and opportunities have equaled empowered and hurt America. I think race is a cultural reality that is embraced and rebuked dependent upon the situation. In Black America it’s impact of achieving the dream has always been to assimilate.

The Evans family is the family from the 70’s television show ‘Good Times.’ The premise of the TV show was to follow a family in Chicago’s Cabini Green Public Housing Project Unit. The Evans family struggles from episode to episode with earning enough money to sustain a viable lifestyle. The ‘Good Times’ theme song of makes reference to temporary lay-offs, credit rip-offs, and waiting in chow lines which ties to the idea of urban survival. Conceptually the idea of surviving related to money in America is prominent. Rappers, athletes, scholars, and politicians alike culturally have accepted this philosophy as the overwhelming oppressor of the Black community. This makes my analogy to Plato clever to me. Plato’s book ‘The Republic’ built the system Rome and now America has used as the blueprint for society.

So I brush it off with the books that I read
to shake off the laziness, jealousy and greed
with notes of Marcus Garvey thoughts of Fuad Muhammad
quotes of Dudley Randle and Assata’s sonnets

Here I acknowledge a series of my favorite writers and the father of the Nation of Islam. Marcus Garvey is the original leader of Black Nationalism. His ideas of Black empowerment in business, residency, and education are phenomenal. Considering the timing of his philosophies and actions are humbling. Garvey’s UNIA organization stands today as one of America’s largest. Tragically it also was infiltrated by J Edgar Hoover and the FBI.

Fuad Muhammad is the master teacher of the honorable Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam. Fuad’s teachings of eating, learning, business, and family have created one of the strongest groups in the Black community.

Assata Shakur is the writer, revolutionary, and leader who has the Black Panther Party and more. Assata’s writings are humbling. Her takes on transforming state of mind to community empowerment are fundamental for my progress.

Dudley Randall was the leader of Broadside Press. Broadside Press was the publisher of many Black poets throughout the Civil Rights movement till today.

Dudley Randall, Lil Wayne, and Assata Shakur
Dudley Randall, Lil Wayne, and Assata Shakur

cause without knowledge slavery’s not abolished
and I find myself even shackled to a dolla
//Hard places makes rocks get softer
Can’t find work? streets got job offers
Why young kids even robbing and shooting
And we blame parents, teachers, and music

I got a little homie who just graduated
Ex-dropout alternative education
As he thinking now that he can just make it
His alternative prison and basic training

Rap Technique:
Starting this verse I play on the harmony of the ending rhymes for the introductory stanza. This technique I’ve always found intriguing. My favorite rappers to use this are Slick Rick, Snoop Dogg, and Lil Wayne. I rarely use this technique but effectively done I feel it brings attention to the rest of the verse.

My favorite song using this technique is Lil Wayne’s “Hustler’s Musik” from his album Carter II. He subtly uses the harmony to mix his words with the music production.

It’s a harsh reality but a sad truth
When you can barely read college not you
You ain’t got no money college got you
You ain’t gotta plan life stops you
Things stack up as time moves on
thinking what’s next, not right or wrong
Why I make decisions that might risk it all
life is a hustle I can flip or I fall
On a high wire I’m Dominique Dawes
With my information that’s of value when I talk
Coming together everything’s in my palms
To catch all the snakes that fatten up the frogs

Song Background: Living Proof (Young Black Youth)

in Lyric Breakdown & Background by

In 2010 I got back to my hip-hop roots. Wrapping up my time as a partner of the historic ‘1440 Collective Studios’ I entered into an agreement with my longtime friend Mio Thomas, and Saba Grebrai to open ‘Sights and Sounds Studios’ in Southfield MI. ‘Sights and Sounds’ started at the Regal Apartments in Southfield MI.

The focus of ‘Sights and Sounds Studios’ was to provide a home for audio recording and professional photography. Mio’s work with 3M Photography has been nationally recognized. His work’s impression upon urban modeling is the premiere brand from Detroit MI. Saba Grebrai has been one of my strongest community partners for nearly a decade now. Her work with her Blue Babies group has helped Michigan’s foster youth find housing, employment, and other opportunities. ‘Sights and Sounds Studios’ was to be a place to show students interested in learning the process of running a studio.

3m Photography, The Regal Apartments, Saba and friends
3m Photography, The Regal Apartments, Saba and friends

The first partner of ‘Sights and Sounds Studios’ was producer Joe Black. Joe Black is a hip-hop artist, producer, recording engineer, and soul vocalist. We met initially through my friend and community leader Yusef Shakur. Joe Black’s work for the soundtrack of Yusef’s autobiography was phenomenal. Joe Black was also the host of ‘Detroit Rap TV’ directed & produced by the late Damani Robinson (RIP).

As the engineer of ‘Sights and Sounds Studios’ in the beginning there was little or no work. For hours I’d sit and talk with Joe Black about hip-hop. Our conversations led to me challenging him to sample some of my favorite hip-hop songs. These challenges reignited my love for hip-hop. Joe Black responded to every idea I had with amazing music. That music became the foundation for my “Broken English Ideologies” project. The “Broken English Ideologies” project is a collection of lessons I learned from some of my favorite hip-hop records overtime.

“Living Proof (Young Black Youth)” is a sample taken from Wu Tang Clan’s song C.R.E.A.M. (Cash Rules Everything Around Me) from their first album ‘Enter the 36 Chambers.’ The sample is taken from the second verse of C.R.E.A.M. as performed by hip-hop artist Inspectah Deck. Inspectah Deck’s verse has always left an impact on my life. The stanza in which the foundation for the chorus of my song “Living Proof (Young Black Youth)” are words I recite often.

Joe Black & Detroit Rap TV Logo
Joe Black & Detroit Rap TV Logo

Inspectah Deck in C.R.E.A.M.

Leave it up to me while I be living proof
To kick the truth to the young black youth
But shorty’s running wild, smokin sess, drinkin beer
And ain’t trying to hear what I’m kickin in his ear
Neglected for now, but yo, it gots to be accepted
That what? That life is hectic

So when Joe Black completed the sample of Inspectah Deck’s stanza I immediately was drawn to complete the song. Within hours I wrote “Living Proof.” There after the development of ‘Broken English Ideologies’ sparked my love for writing hip-hop music again.

Interestingly enough the recording of “Living Proof (Young Black Youth)” I completed this past Monday September 8, 2014 before the Detroit Lions vs. New York Giants football game. My cousin Rae joined me to watch the game as I mixed my vocals. In my home I’ve recorded most of my songs myself. I’ve named my home studio after my maternal grandfather John Brown. It’s where I’ve done my best work thus far. “Living Proof (Young Black Youth)” adds to that legacy.

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