Daily, Downtown Detroit welcomes thousands of guests visiting the MGM Grand, Greektown, and Motor City Casino. Today, the casino culture has ingratiated itself throughout America’s Midwest. Throughout Ohio, Michigan and Indiana 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, dollars and coins of broken industrial mecca’s are stabilizing casinos.
Casinos in Detroit have become a part of Detroit’s nightlife, entertainment culture and fine dining. In less than 20 years, three businesses have shifted the business identity of Detroit.
In 1996, Proposal E was a lead cause on the November ballot. Many Detroiters joined the cause gathering signatures and support to legalize gaming in Detroit. It was a big political issue. Michigan lawmakers outside of Detroit, business developers connected to Detroit, municipal and state politicians, and residents all made up the diversity of stakeholders in Detroit casinos.
In a resounding effort, Proposal E passed. Casino gaming was legalized in Detroit. Immediately following that, a frenzy of where, when, and who would receive the exclusive rights to Detroit casinos ensued. This politicized, polarized, and produced a climate that was fitting for Detroiters.
Then, Mayor Dennis Archer, along with a collection of supporters (primarily from the suburbs of Detroit) took on Detroit residents (abundantly made up of grassroots activists who led the charge to legalize gaming in Detroit). This chess match of will, wit, ignorance, and arrogance, I believe, helps define the complexity and fabric of Detroit. It’s fitting that a process involving business and political functionality became a personal matter. I feel, throughout my lifetime, Detroit politics have been destructively myopic.
Don Barden (R.I.P.) was an entrepreneur born and bred in Detroit. I met Mr. Barden in passing a number of times. His demeanor and charm reminded me of a smooth maitre d’. Barden was most known to me and many Detroiters as the owner of Barden Cable. Before Comcast, (ughhh) everyone had Barden. (FYI: If you were willing to climb a telephone pole and hook it up you didn’t have to pay for it, but you ain’t read that from me). Along with cable television, Barden’s business diversified in many ways. In 1996, a casino in Detroit was his business at heart.
Mayor Archer rejected Barden’s bid for a Detroit casino. This shocked Detroit! There were multiple reasons we believed Barden would build a casino in Detroit. Barden was born in Detroit. Barden was the only Black developer bidding on a casino, in a city that at the time was 85% Black (Barden would have held a majority interest in his casino, there are some Black people with percentiles of a percentage of casino ownership in Detroit). Barden brought in Michael Jackson as a co-developer of the casino as well. Barden also agreed to build an amusement park on the casino premises for families to enjoy.
What If Detroit …
I imagine if Barden would have won his bid for a casino he would have broke ground on a permanent casino as opposed to the temporary casino structures initially opened in Detroit. I think a permanent location would have been needed because of Barden’s amusement park. This development would have taken longer, but led to a grand opening.
Partnering with Michael Jackson heightens international attention and fame. Leveraging this partnership, I believe, the casino would have an entertainment theme. Naturally, the gala events honoring the 25th Anniversary of Michael Jackson’s Thriller album, Motown’s historic Motown 50, and Aretha Franklin’s birthday parties would be held at Barden’s casino.
Michael Jackson’s collection of rare and exotic animals would lend an attraction to the amusement park. I enjoy the Detroit Zoo, but have always wished for it to be more interactive. I see horse, camel, and even elephant rides available for younger children. The excitement of an interactive Zoo for younger children would be mirrored by the excitement of rollercoasters and water slides for myself and other older kids.
Matching Don Barden in style and savvy was his wife, Bella Marshall (R.I.P.). With Marshall I shared a few longer conversations about creativity and bringing things to action. I gathered a better understanding for the endurance and vision Barden had through Marshall. She was extremely theoretical about reaching goals and settling for less was unsettling for her. Many women I meet acknowledge the marriage of Shawn ‘Jay-Z’ Carter and Beyonce Knowles as a power couple to aspire towards in business and relationship. Detroit for years had that example in Don Barden and Bella Marshall.
Marshall’s influence on the casino would have been political and cultural. Politically, I believe, Marshall would have been instrumental in developing passages for the roads of travelers to meet the destination of the casino easiest. Culturally, I think Marshall would have been instrumental in developing a marketplace inside the casino that captures the essence of Detroit fashions, foods and nightlife. Till this day, every time I visit casinos in Detroit, I feel it’s clean and welcoming, but not Detroit.
Finally, I imagine the success of Barden’s Detroit casino would have pressured the other two Detroit casinos to take chances on hiring, contracting, and working with Detroit developers with business models catered to Detroit. I think the current business models look to make the Detroit casinos adapt to Las Vegas concepts. Business is a copycat model towards success. In copying Barden’s model of success, opportunities for more savvy Detroit business people with Detroit ideas would have been created.
Le Petit Zinc is a restaurant located in Detroit’s Corktown district (1055 Trumbull Detroit MI 48216). The ‘Zinc’ specializes in authentic French cuisine. The entrepreneur and owner is Karima Sorel. Karima is a visual artist, world traveler and personal friend. “I want people to feel alive and taste the world visiting Le Petit Zinc,” Sorel.
The Le Petit Zinc offers diners a variety of crepes, salads, croissants and baguettes. Open from 10am – 4pm Monday through Saturday; and 9am – 3pm on Sunday’s; Le Petit Zinc serves breakfast as well. Complimenting breakfast is a full service café with espressos, coffees, cappuccinos and mochas. Le Petit Zinc menu offers a world experience, at a reasonable cost. Visit online and see what you’d like to order when you visit www.lepetitzincdetroit.com .
I think it’s a very colorful and cool place to visit. Le Petit Zinc is a change of pace from heavier food, and the industrial look of most modern restaurants. Sorel’s artistry fills the restaurant with her visions of traveling the world.
Le Petit Zinc also plays an important role in Detroit is Different. Monthly I am hosting an event at the Le Petit Zinc, “Seven O’Clock Saturday Stories.” The event will be a conversation between myself and a guest welcoming an audience. Le Petit Zinc offers a great feel and look for this live event/podcast recording.
Seven O’Clock Saturday Stories premieres Saturday April 26 2014 at 7pm at Le Petit Zinc 1055 Trumbull Detroit MI 48216. The inaugural guest is Malik Yakini of the Detroit Food Security Network. This event is free and welcome for all guests.
In 1966 Ernie Harwell began donating Baseball memorabilia to the Detroit Public Library. At the time Harwell was a young sports broadcaster for the Detroit Tigers.
From 1960 – 2002 Detroit Tigers broadcasts were led by the charming southern drawl of Ernie Harwell.
Harwell passed in 2010. His legacy and impact on the Tigers, baseball and Detroit remain significant.
Ernie was born in a small Georgia town. He began his broadcast career for a minor league baseball team in Atlanta. In 1948 Ernie moved up to Major League Baseball, and began calling games for the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Harwell’s older brother was a librarian. Upon his brother’s encouragement, Ernie began donating baseball memorabilia, books and artifacts to the Detroit Public Library. For over 40 years generous donations grew into an expansive collection. Today the Ernie Harwell exhibit embodies the history of baseball.
The Ernie Harwell collection is at Detroit’s Main Public Library. Dawn Eurich manages the Harwell collection. The Harwell collection is a part of the Burton Historical collection. Touring the exhibit is free for all library card holders (all ages and Michiganders are welcome for a tour). Upon my visit, I found the most compelling artifact to be Roberto Clemente’s bat.
I find Harwell’s commitment to the Tigers and baseball motivating. I also appreciate the way he’s shared his enthusiasm for baseball with Detroiters. As an avid sports fan, music enthusiast and movie buff the Harwell collection is admirable.
I suggest you visit the collection. Take photos, and experience a piece of Detroit Tiger history. Here’s the link to the exhibit ErnieHarwellCollection .
‘Make it Last (Forever Detroit)’ has been very well received over the years. I’m glad so many people appreciate the lyrics. I also enjoy hearing their interpretations of the lyrics. Here is mine.
Verse One (Click Play below to hear the Music)
Reflections of reformed wildboys running the streets
When pick em’ up mess em’ up wasn’t nuthin’ for me
As a kid growing up on Detroit’s Westside I spent hours playing outside. ‘Pick em Up Mess em Up’ was a game I played a lot. ‘Pick em Up Mess em Up’ is football, without a football, and enough players. It’s a game played on an empty field where two touchdown zones are agreed upon by the players. After the touchdown zones are established, an object that substitutes as a football is selected (In Example: an empty 2 liter soda bottle). Players take turns picking up the object. When the object is picked up by one player, every other player attempts to gang tackle whoever picked up the object.
In retrospect, this was the most dangerous game we played. I’m sure that’s why we enjoyed the game so much. In memory, the only person I’ve remember scoring a touchdown playing the game was Braylon Edwards. It was evident at a young age he had the talent to play in the NFL.
But from 7 to 11 dudes took on the streets
Playing with working 20’s not hide and go seek
7 to 11 years old was a precious age for me. I moved from my childhood neighborhood at 11. This was also when some of my neighborhood friends began losing interest in school, and began selling drugs.
A working 20 is a 5th of an ounce of cocaine or marijuana. This amount of drugs is ‘fronted’ to sale to an introductory level drug dealer. The dealer would ‘work’ off the cost of the drugs, by selling the drugs, and receiving less profit (consignment). The science of economics is not generally recognized or analyzed in low cost drug transactions. Albeit, every economic premise can be witnessed.
Science of Rap
The subliminal double entendre has always been a beloved rap technique in lyricism to me. Cam’ Ron, Jay –Z and Drake are artists I feel who have mastered the skill. One of the most recognizable and coined lyrics for this is Jay-Z’s: “I’m not a businessman/ I’m a business man,” in Kanye West’s “Diamonds are Forever (Remix).”
I used this technique mentioning ‘7 to 11.’ The brand is widely recognized for the 24 hour convenient store. I wanted listeners to envision that. Ideally, I expected listeners to believe my friends took to the streets with 24 hour long dedication.
We aint even understand we was falling for realities
Street life formalities, urban externalities
All we really wanted was just sumthin’ to move
Cause Pelle Pelle and some Penny’s was the things that’s cool
I believe the extrinsic value of material goods can be internalized as intrinsic benchmarks of success. Therefore, I’ve spent a life time looking to define my success through the people, projects and things I find fulfilling. It’s a challenge.
I think culturally Americans have a propensity to spend money. I believe we define ourselves with material items. Many Detroiters’ I know define themselves with goods I call ‘Street Luxuries.’
Theoretically the belief system of defining a self image with cars, clothes, jobs, social circles and residencies, is a social construct. We believe society castes these expectations upon us. This is why I make reference to the idea that we fell into a reality, where we face externalities (an externality is the cost or benefit that affects a party who did not choose to incur that cost or benefit).
‘Street Luxuries’ Detroiters often seek are residencies outside of Detroit (preferably away from other Detroiters), Alligator skin shoes, Cartier glasses frames, gaudy leather jackets and new Chevrolets. Gaudy leather jackets with designs of Tony Montana, Tutankhamen, Detroit street signs and gun arsenals are beloved. Pelle Pelle is a Detroit based leather apparel brand that releases Fall and Winter collections.
I’ve been in numerous conversations with male Detroiters who believe their success in meeting women was exclusively because they were wearing a Pelle Pelle jacket. As a teenage boy focused on girls, any item that raises the opportunity to successfully meet a girl is an essential. The fixation towards ‘Air Jordan’ sneakers (many young Black men share) I believe is for the same reason. I also reference Penny’s. Penny’s were the $185 Nike sneakers worn by Orlando Magic point guard Anfernee Hardaway. Upon their release the sneakers became the most expensive Nike’s ever. The cost and dynamic look made Penny’s a sought after ‘Street Luxury.’
And girls wanted immature but they ain’t go to our school
They was tapped up on they locker but not in homeroom
And now we get it in chasing lust from all ends
With fears of commitment from heartbreak back then
Making up for adolescence life grown men
Understood Michael Jackson through my own life sins
Puberty has had a lasting effect on the way I interact with women I’m attracted to. My desire and lust towards girls was prominent as a teenager. Then many of my interactions with females I interpreted as rejection. My fear of rejection overtime created a cocky attitude. My attitude when to approaching a woman is to not give her an option to reject me. Conceptually, this came to fruition when I experienced more luck approaching women.
By the time I garnered more attention from females, I was less appreciative of it. When I was younger and more eager to receive female attention, I had none.
At a younger age I believed girls only idolized boys with characteristics that I didn’t possess. I make reference to girls taping up pictures of ‘Immature’ on their locker. ‘Immature,’ was a Black boy band that came to notoriety during the mid 1990’s. I remember how the girls in middle school would pick members of the band to be their boyfriend. I saw this, and felt left out.
As we getting older we got families to raise
Hanging out with boots and Dora gone make up Birthdays
As we sip a little liquor and we cut the cake
Cause what’s real is the future so the past is fake
As I bottle up our wisdom from my past mistakes
And I breathe upon the seeds to make a path create
From 2004 – 2009 many of my closest friends all fathered children. Tristin, Phil, Mio, Mike, Brandon and Kevin began their families one after another. Today, many have two or three children. At the time it was experiential to be hanging out with my homeboys and their infants. Collectively we gave the infants an insurmountable amount of attention and love.
I vividly remember the day my friend Mike Willingham’s daughter Michaela was born. Chico, Mike and I were hanging out at Fairlane Mall in Dearborn MI. We were having lunch at Starter’s Restaurant. Mike received a call from his baby sister Amber. Amber notified Mike that Keisha (Michalea’s Mother) was going into labor. Upon notice we headed to Botsford Hospital in Farmington Hills MI. Along the way I stopped at CVS to buy some inexpensive cigars and ‘Huggies Swindlers.’ I had no idea what diapers new born babies use. The sales associate at CVS was helpful and informative. Today I often tell Michaela I bought her first outfit.
Though my actions contradict a lot of things I say
Cause school ain’t making money and I’m bout my bank
And I decide on what to do from all the cash at stake
While I’m forced to make decisions from the cash I waste
This stanza of the verse captures the confusion I felt towards life at the time. I felt life needed structure. I never felt comfortable conforming to it. At 25 I believed economic access, mobility and opportunity were primary life objectives. I consistently challenged this belief by looking to earn wealth from a collection of activities that lacked a clearly defined money making apparatus.
Verse Two (Click Play below to hear the Music)
I’m considered as a thinker
I engage street dreamers
With Macro Economics studied for my reasons
Justifying hoods by telling Wall Street demons
Tupac and Noam Chomsky what I’m believing
Throughout life I’ve often been told I’m smart. This is humbling, because I’ve always felt misunderstood. My insecurities about being misunderstood is the reason I’m a rapper. I idolized young Black men I felt spoke what, when and how they wanted to about life.
Today I realize through reminiscing, playing my music and conversation, I’m often seeking an understanding in myself as well. It’s sad that for years I resented others for doing what I’ve done to myself for just as long.
I have a wide range of interests that I’m constantly feeding with pop culture, conversation and independent study. I gather wells of information towards of my many interests. I apply my life’s journey to these concepts for better understandings.
In Example: Recently I was reading a Wall Street Journal blog about the drop of WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) stock buyers. The drop in stock took place after Wrestlemania 2014. At Wrestlemania 2014, ‘The Undertaker (wrestler)’ lost. In 20 years of wrestling ‘The Undertaker’ has never lost a match at Wrestlemania, till now. Upon reading this blog my thought process captures the following concepts: I think back to his introduction as the unknown wrestler in the 1992 Royal Rumble. I honor the respect I have for Vince McMahon in business creativity and vision. I ask myself, when in life have I diverted from an expected path to choose an alternative? Why did I choose this method? At what opportunity cost will I lose the expected benefits for the risk of the new rewards?
In less than a minute my mind processes that information. Complimented by dozens of other questions, thoughts and ideas. The same imagination I had playing with toys as a child I apply towards life. I imagine being Vince McMahon, creating a new reality for the WWE.
I believe my thought process affects the way people hear my music.
This stanza also honors two people I admire; Tupac Shakur (RIP) and Noam Chomsky. Tupac Shakur used poetic techniques and interpersonal stories in his raps. His creativity drew lasting images in my mind. Tupac’s boldness to explore insecurities, misunderstandings and paranoia humble me as a rapper. Noam Chomsky is an MIT linguistics professor who wrote the acclaimed book ‘Manufacturing Consent.’ Chomsky’s work challenges American politics, economics and social design. Chomsky’s practical views on complex societal challenges amazes me. I study his work to gain an understanding of how to give new ideas mass appeal.
On a paper chase cause my crew stay eating
Cause 6 figure moves is just how I’m thinking
IRS chase deals that’ll pull in a mil
Wanna make a little less to keep em’ outta my grill
As stated earlier, at 25 years old my mind was fixated on money. I find this stanza clever, because it makes reference to making less money on paper.
My paternal Grandfather Don Scott (RIP) always said lists of top earning Black entrepreneurs (Black Enterprise) are incriminating. He believed any Black person listed as a top earning American would face fed time, tax issues or excessive law suits. My Grandfather was correct, in regards to the three Black billionaires I’ve met (LaVan Hawkins, Mel Farr and Don Barden RIP). All three faced criminal, tax or civil challenges that compromised their wealth.
As I’m plotting on tomorrow but survive for now
While advocating for a city that’s dying out
Population drop cause ain’t no jobs in town
Just the poor and their leeches that hang around
& take the town for everything that make it count
even the Mayor of Detroit don’t live in town
but on the cusp of the deals that’ll turn it around
I wrote these lyrics from the perspective of Rev. David Bullock, Brandon Jessup and Yusef Shakur. Their very close friends of mine. All three men have committed themselves to Detroit. Advocating for Detroit has been conflicting for them. They have experienced more acclaim, appreciation and opportunity outside of Detroit.
While writing this record Mayor Dave Bing held office in Detroit. Bing resided in Southfield MI before he began his mayoral campaign. I remember local newspapers quoting Mayor Bing’s wife. She claimed “the only way I’m would moving to Detroit is if my husband wins the election.”
it’s ironic . . . and I can’t complain
it’s only wise to concern myself with things I change
So I support all my people from the day to day
and stay focused on my grind as I work the game
by staying grounded by the people that’ll keep me sane
and spending time with the people from where I came
& I came from a place that’s a home for struggle
so we all about come ups and stay on hustles
and our hustle is the rise just to make it by
I close the song by recognizing in confusion I have a strong sense of comfort in Detroit. This comfort, I believe can be seen as blight, lacks of opportunity and antiquated infrastructures. There is a fabric of truth in those arguments, but I disagree. I find friends and family in Detroit. These relationships help define me. I also am inspired by the chances I can take in Detroit. There are many homes for networks, relationships and activities centered in creativity here. I feel Detroit incubates creativity.
Science of Rap
Pacing and spacing while delivering a rap is a skill I’ve developed an appreciation for. This technique is subtle, and one of the most effective talents when executed correctly. Two of my favorite rappers and Houston TX veterans are masters of this; Pimp C of UGK (RIP) and Scarface.
Scarface’s persona throughout the ‘My Diary’ album is great. This is best captured in the song ‘I Seen a Man Die.’ The way he performs the song is conversational and impactful. I believe this led to the success of the song.
I used this technique stating “it’s ironic … but I can’t complain.” I wanted listeners to feel the hypocritical messages delivered throughout the song.
The music I used for this song was taken from Keith Sweat’s 1987 song titled ‘Make it Last Forever.’ The song and album (of the same name) were successful records during the New Jack Swing era of R&B. Teddy Riley produced the song.
Coming of age, during the New Jack Swing era, I always appreciated the big drums, keys and samples in the music. Riley is regarded as the “Godfather” of New Jack Swing (New Jack Swing is a style of music that blends 1980’s style hip-hop music with 1980’s style R&B, soul and funk).
The music and era influenced many hip-hop artists. In 2010, I found out that two of the best rappers from Detroit dedicated an album to the music. T Calmese of the Subterraneous Crew & Vaughan T of Athletic Mic League came together and created ‘New Jack Kings.’ ‘New Jack Kings is a project that exclusively uses music production created through sampling New Jack Swing music. My friend Nick Speed sampled Bell Biv Devoe’s ‘Poison’ … it’s amazing.
I used three vocal samples in the song to create an essence of Detroit. The samples included interview exerts from Mayor Jerome Cavanagh, researcher Kurt Metzger and Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. Mayor Jerome Cavanagh begins the song. Mayor Cavanagh speaks about how Detroit flourished to automotive opulence. This is followed by an interview with researcher Kurt Metzger. Metzger explains the journey of Detroit and Highland Park from 1965 to 2005. Metzger recognizes the loss of manufacturing employment, polarizing racism and antiquated business ideologies throughout the Metro Detroit region. The closing sample is from Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. Mayor Kilpatrick speaks about the opportunities throughout Detroit. Mayor Kilpatrick’s belief that Detroit is moving towards excellence is evident throughout his interview.
The lyrics I performed on this song were originally written and performed on “Not Sweet”. ‘Not Sweet’ was a song featured on my 2009 album release “notes of an Artist & Activist II.”
I wrote the lyrics in 2008. I was 25 years old, heading to 26, with many of my perspectives towards life changing. I spent a lot of time speaking with, planning with and hanging with Brandon Jessup and Michael Willingham. Friendships with both have truly blossomed my growth. My imagination thrives when I have the chance to share conversations with people I feel understand me and challenge my ideas. Mike Will and BJ are key members in a collective of friends who add to my confidence.
Brandon leads the non-profit organization Michigan Forward. Michigan Forward’s mission is to create progressive public policy initiatives for state and local government. Currently Brandon is a candidate in the 10th district for Michigan State Representative. You can find out more about Brandon’s campaign through his website by clicking the following link BrandonJessup .
Michael is the center of our collective. Everyone who’s been invited to and attended our annual cookout is connected to Mike. Mike is also an extremely talented visual artist. He currently runs the ‘Grind Ave’ urban apparel clothing line. You can experience his artistry through his instagram account by clicking the following link michaelroze .
My lyrics for ‘Make it Last (Detroit Forever)’ chronicles my friendships’ with Mike and BJ. It’s a coming of age story in arts and politics. In writing the record, I challenged myself to welcome the listener into discussions we’ve shared. I wanted to capture the pressure I felt at 25 years old looking towards 30. Collectively, I felt we enjoyed the existence of being children inspired to create. There, after we were pressured into being labeled “Black”, then pressured into being labeled Detroiters and finally being pressured into being labeled adults. I felt we were essentially being challenged to change.