The text above is from my post on Facebook the day before the verdict came down in the George Zimmerman Trial. Here is an expansion on that...
I have not been one to obsess over these types of public court cases, but I do try to stay aware of the news. With a situation like this, seeing coverage or opinions of the case is unavoidable. Trayvon Martin's name has been a trending topic for the entire year and a half since the incident. During that time lines have been drawn and opposing sides have dug in their heels on the hot button issues – Gun rights, Race, and Self Defense. The first two of those issues, while clearly playing a role in how the events unfolded, both before and after the incident, are not the issues that truly matter in this case. They are just easy targets for media and politicians to steer the conversation to the things that distract us and keep us divided.
Did George Zimmerman racially profile Trayvon Martin? Fuck yeah he did. Did his defense shamelessly attempt to use anything they could to posthumously thug up Trayvon's character? Disgustingly yes. The sad part is that had Trayvon lived and killed George Zimmerman in self defense he would be on trial and the same character assassination would be coming from the state. George Zimmerman is a sociopath who aggressively pursued an innocent teenager, initiating a conflict that was bound to cost one of their lives because he brought a deadly weapon into the mix. The scary thing about all this is that there are people who think he's not a dangerous person, and not only that, but he did the right thing. Killing an unarmed teenager is never the right thing. Zimmerman was a ticking time bomb. Carrying a gun with him, playing police, following people; These are not the actions of a stable person. This man was directly told by 911 to STOP FOLLOWING Trayvon Martin. He ignored that instruction. Now, should we believe that had Trayvon submitted to him that this would have turned out better? How about if Trayvon had turned out to be a teenage girl of similar build and reacted similarly to how Trayvon did? The defense was right, there are “too many what ifs”, but not the ones they intended.
To the real facts of the fight, no one will ever know the full truth but Trayvon and Zimmerman, though regardless the circumstance, Trayvon did not have to die. Zimmerman was power hungry, but what he was really driven by was his own fear. Fear of different people, fear of being powerless, and god knows what else. If what has come out in trial is true, that Trayvon was on top of Zimmerman getting the better of him, in my eyes Zimmerman was getting what he deserved. We believe in this country in standing up for ourselves. The irony is that at the time of the incident all the talk was about Zimmerman using the “Stand your ground” law, when what Trayvon Martin did was stand his ground. He stood up to a strange man who followed him, and may or may not have obviously had a gun. It took courage for Trayvon to confront the man who was stalking him, and it took a great deal of cowardice on the part of Zimmerman to gun him down, regardless the scenario. Zimmerman was no where near sustaining an injury great enough to truly have reason to fear for his life. He could have yielded, he could have run away, hell he could have pulled his gun and not fired to get the kid to back off. The bottom line is to believe the defense theory requires that we accept that Trayvon Martin was viscous and brutal enough to attempt to beat a man to death. That's is a pretty huge jump in logic, not to mention that George Zimmerman was the only one who entered this situation with a weapon and intent to use deadly force. This man tried to play super hero, but had no thought behind it, no training, no plan, just a gun and sudden confidence to feel empowered to pursue his own paranoid delusions. When he got bested, he used his false sense of power to take the life a young man who was simply fighting for his. That's not self defense, it's flat out murder. As I stated above, I don't believe this incident would have turned out better had Trayvon been submissive to Zimmerman. He had no plan for how to handle a situation like this, yet he pursued it aggressively, even against orders from authorities. That is dangerous, deluded, and frightening. He is a sociopath.
I hoped to see George Zimmerman get found guilty of the full charge. Alas, I sometimes have too great a faith in what I see as obvious logic. In my eyes I see a dangerous trend of people in this country becoming increasingly paranoid, xenophobic, racist, and feeling justified in their aggression. These are not the people I want roaming my streets armed feeling like they run the roost. Authority figures abuse their power enough without a bunch of crazy assholes running around playing cowboy. My streets feel safer when there isn't a local sociopath driving around with a gun looking for people he deems “suspicious”. Even as a white person myself, because of my tattoos or my style of dress in the wrong neighborhood people will look at me crossly, like I don't belong. It's a scary feeling, made all the scarier now that there are people out there who have gotten the message from this: “It's OKAY to be a vigilante”. Something gives me the feeling that the people who take that message away, are DANGEROUS. One of my favorite graphic novels, Watchmen, is about real life super heroes and the societal impact of vigilantism. A great question posed in the form of graffiti in the book is “Who Watches The Watchmen?”. I think that is a question we should be asking ourselves after all this.
I'll close with this, one of my favorite observations about Zimmerman in the aftermath, that came from comedian Matt Braunger: “Ironically, Zimmerman will spend the rest of his life worrying that someone with a gun and something to prove will murder him.” And if someone gets him, well, sadly I doubt anyone would feel pity.
I'm glad this Zimmerman trial is almost over and I do hope he is convicted of manslaughter at the very least. What parts I've watched of the trial, I have been absolutely floored by the defense strategies, particularly the fact that they feel they must spit on the grave of a dead kid to make it seem acceptable that he was killed. Race is a part of this whole ordeal, but it is also a huge fucking distraction with people caught up on both sides. The important part in this is about SELF DEFENSE. Let me be clear I am NOT talking about pussy ass Zimmerman's idea of SELF DEFENSE which is to feel more powerful by having a gun. What is at stake here, is a the right of a private citizen to DEFEND THEMSELF AGAINST A WEIRDO FOLLOWING THEM WITH A GUN. Trayvon Martin could very well have been on top of George Zimmerman and giving him the ass-whooping of a lifetime, which he rightfully deserved for following and harassing another human for no reason other than his own paranoid suspicion. The fact remains Trayvon was unarmed. Zimmerman initiated conflict by following him and approaching him, so if he got his ass kicked, sorry bud take it like a fucking man and learn not to follow around people you got no business following around. The claim is that Zimmerman "feared for his life" but it was in a situation HE PUT HIMSELF INTO. At the end of the day, Trayvon Martin is dead because George Zimmerman is a cowardly sociopath with delusions of authority. Think for a minute how this situation would have played out had Trayvon been submissive to Zimmerman, does it end with Trayvon alive?
About four weeks ago, my fiance Janale Harris, whom most of you know as Quanster, called me from his job and asked me in a desperate, miserable voice if he could quit. It’s all too much, he said. This is killing me, he said. I can’t do it anymore, he explained.
I’d been watching the proof of his words for months. His job was indeed stripping away from him all the things he needed in order to be a happy and fulfilled person - for this man, that means, more than anything, time. Time to spend with his kids, time to spend with me, and time to work on his passion - his music and all the components to his massive, multi faceted creation that is First Team Music.
So, while my stomach dropped and my mouth went dry, and rapid flashbacks buzzed through my mind of the past four years - the struggles we have endured, the stress of not having enough money, of not knowing how we would pay rent or buy food or keep the power on or get the car out of the shop or get home on the bus for that matter - without even a second’s hesitation I said, “Okay.”
I guess I could say I’d seen it coming, which is true, but more so than that, to be in love with someone who dreams big dreams such as his means that you have to get used to taking risks and lending what I have come to think of as blind support. Not blind in that I am oblivious or blissfully ignorant to what the risks entail...but simply blind to the negativity that would strip us both of our faith in ourselves and each other and would truly be the downfall of everything.
Most people who achieve great success in anything will tell you they couldn’t have done it without the support and love of so and so. We as humans thrive on each other, on having someone to lean on. But with that said I think it’s incredibly difficult and even rare to be the one giving that “blind support.” It means taking leaps of faith almost daily. It means taking that thing which is so important in any relationship, trust, to a whole other level, and placing your future in your other’s hands and abilities.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one to sit back and simply “trust the universe.” I would be lying if I told you I wasn’t absolutely panicking inside as my husband to be leaves a semi-well-paying job that stressed him out and allowed no time for his business or his family for an absolute shit-paying-job that offers a lot of flexibility and room to grow. The only thing that comforts me enough to be able to sleep some nights is knowing that I have my own opportunities and resources to help us get by until Quanstar’s kingdom is finished being built. Which it will be.
And that’s just it...there is no doubt in my mind that Janale Harris will one day achieve it all, whatever that means. The world will know his message and his gifts, and we will never want for a tank of gas or the rent or a simple trip to the beach again. Maybe that’s what drives me so faithfully and quickly to my place of support when he needs it. Or maybe it’s just that I love him and I want him to be happy, and I hate to see him miserable and hurting because he isn’t pouring his heart into what he needs to be doing. Probably, it’s a mixture of both.
So yes, I told him to quit his job. Yes, I told him we would figure it out. Yes, I wrangled the kids and house that week in between his jobs as much as I could so he could devote as much time as possible to getting all of his projects that had been dumped to the wayside in the past several months back on track. Yes, I am still scared to death, but one month later, I see how much happier and...vibrant he is. The life is back in his eyes because he’s able to do what he loves to do, what he was born to do. He has stuff popping off in every direction. His book is out, something four years in the making...his app designs are perfected, his website done, the laundry is for once all folded and put away (that’s his only household job and it is NEVER done ;). Men!). I couldn’t resist throwing that last one in there.
I hope I’m not coming across as some golden shining martyr here because I’m not...believe me, over the years we’ve argued and I’ve had moments of resentment. I’ve had moments of intense panic, and acted like a big baby, and sometimes even now I wonder if I have some type of post traumatic stress syndrome because I get anxiety so quickly if we get a month behind on a bill or get a little carried away and spend too much at Target. Or when the check engine light on the car comes on, oh my GOD. I’ve wanted to tell him to go get a “real” job so that we could stop struggling. But then I wake up and realize that would kill his spirit and destroy the very thing that I love most about him - that drive to success and achievement that fuels him at all costs.
So, blindly supporting someone’s dreams is not easy. It’s not glorious. It’s not for the faint of heart. But...it’s necessary. If you’re going to be with a dreamer, you have to be with them 100%. And by the way, he absolutely would do (and has done) the same for me. When I wanted to spend the last of our savings on some jewelry that I “knew” would sell a couple of years ago, he didn’t even blink. When I decided to climb the ladder at my job and do whatever it took to get there as quickly as possible, he stayed up all night helping me make glazed orange rinds to go with the perfect coffee pairing to impress the higher ups. It does need to go both ways. (And yes - that jewelry sold AND made a fast profit, and I got to where I wanted to be at my job in less than a year. And I owe a LOT to Janale’s blind support and faith in me.)
Support is like a catalyst. It can be that final motivator that kicks you into high gear to get things accomplished. You want to prove to that person that they are not believing in a pipe dream. Human beings need that supportive shoulder. We need to know someone is on our side and has our back no matter what, no matter the risk, especially when we’re up against impossible odds.
To my Quanstar, I say, we’ve come this far...we’ve already endured a lot. Eventually your efforts will pay off, and I fully expect a belated honeymoon in Madagascar or Paris or Morocco or all three, and my house with a yard. Until then, I blindly support you and your endeavors and do all I can to make sure you know your hard work and dedication and drive WILL pay off.
In the meantime, I’ll go make you a pitcher of iced coffee because I know that when you get home tonight at midnight from your minimum wage job, you will be burning the midnight oil working on First Team Music and nurturing all of your many projects that you currently have in motion while I and our sons sleep. I am so proud of you.
Then I’ll leave the dishes for you because tomorrow is Mother’s Day, after all. See? Support : Give and take. :)
For decades, artists have used recording studios not only as a means to record their music, but also as a space to be creative in, and generate new ideas inside. The traditional recording studio is not only a room with equipment, but also an engineer (turns the knobs), a producer (provides input regarding song structure and album concepts), and multiple assistants. Today, more and more people are pursuing recording as a hobby, and setting up recording studios in their living rooms, bathrooms, bedrooms, and garages. This is a much more affordable way of recording your music, but doesn’t come without its disadvantages.
If you’re the artist, you have to ask yourself “What do I want to get from this experience?”. Do you want other musicians? Do you want production advice? What’s your budget?
There are many small studios popping up that have exactly what many people are looking for - good quality recordings of their work that they can share.. As you know, it’s easier to get music out to the masses than ever before, and if you have recordings on bandcamp, soundcloud, myspace, or other websites, you can share your music with the world.
That said, larger, more established recording studios can afford more expensive tools to make you sound better than you thought possible. It’s up to you which option is right for you. Larger studios have a greater overhead, and therefore need to pay the bills. Rates at these studios are generally higher than that of small studio rates. Rates at a well established studio can be anywhere from $75 - $200 per hour. Lesser established studios generally charge between $15 - $40 per hour. If you figure that your standard hip-hop album takes 10-12 hours to record, you’re looking at around $1,000 - $2,000 to record at a large studio, and somewhere around $200 - $500 to record at a small studio. It’s a big financial difference, and if you’re happy with the quality from the small studio, it’s the perfect situation.
Another perk of the small studio, is more often than not, really inspired people set them up and work in them, so you know that a lot of love goes into the work. Sometimes in large studios, the workers are just there to put in the hours. Also, since the rates are lower, you get more work for less money in the small studio.
The other option which many people are turning to is home recording studios.. Extra bedrooms or garages make great spaces, and you can get an incredible setup for less than $2,000 that will offer you a lifetime of recording in your own home. For a good hip-hop setup, you need a computer, recording software, a microphone, and an interface that allows you to plug the microphone into the computer. Here are my recommendations priced out -
Computer: Hewlett-Packard, custom built from their website - $800 (Mac equivalent is 3-4k)
Recording Software: Pro Tools 9 - $500 (You pay more, but it’s the
industry standard, and well worth the price)
Microphone: Audio-Technica AT4033 - $200-$300 on the “used” section at guitarcenter.com
Interface: Edirol UA 5 USB Mic Pre-Amp - $289 at soundprofessionals.com
There you have it - everything you need to have a great home studio for under 2k.
As I said before, it’s up to you to decide what you want from a studio. Do you want to build a home recording studio so you can record at your house 24/7? Do you want an affordable professional recording experience, where you walk away with a CD in hand ready to distribute to the masses? Or do you want to go all out and spend the money for the big time recording experience, and have the next platinum single? Choose your own adventure..
What's up indiehiphop101ers. Ghani Gautama here, founding member of Street Temple Emcees, one fourth of United Underworld, one half of Salty Dogs and your sister's favorite hip hop vagabond. Quanstar was kind enough to have me come do a guest article so here it goes...
In September of 2010 I moved from Atlanta, GA (my home for 10 years) to Charlotte, NC. It was a business and personal move and in my short in my new digs (9 months as of writing this) I've been able to keep my show schedule full, acquire professional management and secure a venue that allows me to throw my own monthly events. All of this in addition to maintaining my obligations to my Atlanta cohorts. None of this was by accident. I took some very teachable steps to make this so and I'd like to take this chance to share some tips with you.
There's a lot of reasons and they will differ from artist to artist. Perhaps it's a personal move or an opportunity to conquer a new market. Whatever the reason, it is important to remember that it can be either a disaster or a victory and this all depends on your attitude. Even if it's not an outright business move, if you approach it as an opportunity, it can become a beneficial move. These five tips worked for me and I am confident if you follow them you too can orchestrate a successful relocation.
ONE) Don't Look Back In Anger
One of the factors that went into my decision was the saturation of hip hop acts in Atlanta. A lot of artists go to music hot beds (like I did in Atlanta) to get their careers off of the ground. This can be a good idea, there are lots of opportunities and connections to be made but it also puts you in a BIG pond with a lot of even BIGGER fish. In my case I felt that I had done all that I could in Atlanta without conjuring up some magic money to throw at the situation. Regardless of your reasons for leaving, NEVER and I repeat NEVER do so bitter. Make sure you thank everyone who's helped and supported you while you were in your old location and keep in touch with them. It's easy to say "this town sucks," flip a bird and ride off into the sunset but you will at the same time alienate and anger a city full of supporters (and potential supporters) and severely limit your chances of coming back. If you look at your move as a new beginning and not as an ending it will help you project this positive attitude.
TWO) The Three R's: Research, Reach Out and Reciprocate
Okay, so you've decided to move you know the location, what now? First thing is hit the internet. RESEARCH venues and promoters in the area and see what acts are active on the scene. Then go onto your social networks and REACH OUT to artists that you like and who are doing things that you want to get involved with. Reverbnation.com is a good tool for this. When you contact artists, be sure not to approach them with a hat-in-hand attitude, let them know who you are, give them links to your music and ask them if they have any advice they can give you for breaking into the scene. If you followed tip one you should still have you contact from your last place of residence so offer to set them up with shows down there if they would like. It's tempting to ask them to put you on, but trust me if you have what it takes the shows will come. Artists are busy with their own stuff, if you bring something to the table you put yourself in a position to be viewed as a peer and not some new jack with his hand out. Once you get this info start going out and supporting these people. You can't ask them to help you if you won't support them. Keep showing your face and eventually you'll get your shot and when that shot comes, RECIPROCATE, don't make people regret helping you because the news that you're an ingrate will travel fast and your opportunities will dry up even faster. I'd also recommend adding a fourth "R," RESPECT, this goes for life in general but definitely applies here and should play heavily into the next step.
THREE) Killer Instinct
This is where things get good. You've been out to some events, shook hands, and maybe even got a few chances to shine on the mic. Now it's time to go for the gusto. When you're out at these shows supporting your fellow artists, keep a sharp eye and ear out for the movers and shakers on the scene. Introduce yourself to promoters and venue owners and don't be afraid to sell yourself. You might be new to the area but your entire body of work is your resume. Let them know what you've accomplished and that you are available to work. It's important to remember that these folks don't generally discuss business at shows so get their contact info and contact them through the channels which they prefer. I call it "killer instinct" because it is what sets amateur artists from pros and it's something that many don't possess. It is imperative that you conduct such conversations with confidence and professionalism so don't drink too much and watch your language. That being said don't be stiff or get too exited, as they say in sports, act like you've been there before. Approach these people in a way that reflects that you already have things going on and that if they pass on you someone else will jump at the chance to work with you. In sales they call this "fear of loss," in music you have to be a little more subtle in how you communicate it but the concept still applies. Knowing how to go for the "kill" and get your own events going will allow you to you to repay all the people who have helped you in your new city as well as provide new opportunities for your people back in your old city.
FOUR) Be Prepared
It's the Boy Scouts' motto but you should make it your own. Technology has made things extremely easy for hip hop musicians. I keep sets of 10, 15 and 20 minutes on the mp3 player in my phone and always carry a eighth inch to quarter inch audio cable and USB cable with me whenever I go out to anything. There's also a myriad of compact USB storage devices available so there's no excuse for being without your set, at the very least, burn a few CDs of different lengths and never leave home without them. You never know when an chance to play will fall in your lap and-especially when you're new to town-you never want to have to turn that chance down due to lack of preparation. I mean, really, a $10 jump drive that weighs less than an ounce can open so many doors.
FIVE) Humility, Humility, Humility
I say this thrice because it is that important. It is important to be confident, but never forget that the people who can help you the most have more than likely been building their business in the area for a long time. Even if it isn't the most crowded show or you don't get the best time slot, ALWAYS say thank you, not just on stage but in person at the show and again after the show by phone or e-mail. The same applies to your fellow artists, even if you don't personally care for their style of music, dap them up and tell them "good show." When people pay you compliments, look them in the eye and give them sincere humble thanks. This is always important but even more so when you're new in town. People are going to be more inclined to help a person who is humble and grateful more so than someone who isn't. It's also important to remember that whatever dues you paid in your old town don't mean anything in your new one so pay them with the same humility and vigor that you did back when you first started. Paying dues should actually be easier the second time around because you will have a clear cut strategy on how to move up in the game unlike when you were a young buck flying by the seat of your pants.
I hope this helps, it's important to note that there is no magic bullet to doing anything in this crazy business but these pointers helped me out a lot. My most recent relocation has been a swimming success and that is in no small part because I utilized all of these tips. If anyone out there has any more tips to add PLEASE post them in the comments.
Stay Thirsty My Friends,
Ghani Gautama firstname.lastname@example.org
Hip Hop from a fans perspective. Hmm. Am I a fan? I don't consider myself as such. Fans get bored, and move on to the next. They aren't so much about the cultivation of a thing as much as they are the consumption of it. So then, what am I to Hip Hop and likewise what is Hip Hop to me? For about two months I've had this sitting on my desk, swimming round my head hoping a light bulb moment would occur that might allow me to write something about my take on Hip Hop and what I want from it. But that's not what happened. And I think I've figured out why. You see, Hip Hop isn't just one thing to me.
I've just come back from a trip to Seattle to visit my cousin. Seattle has a busy underground Hip Hop scene. And it's far from underground. It's in the layout of the backwards road system. It's in the power lines fueling the buses. It's everywhere. And it's eclectic following stands by its network of performers without waver. This is just part of what Hip Hop is to me. It's a culture that constantly repaints the mural of the communities it resides in. Hip Hop is the reflection of realities faced by its constituents. Its responsibility is to be the voice of the many that go unheard. Being heard is something that Hip Hop does well. Transcending race, gender, age, cultures, it travels across the ocean to paint more murals of the lives we do not know. The being heard part, yeah that's not the issue I take with the distributers of this art. It is what's being heard on a mass consumer level that disappoints. And if I had to sum up the impersonation of this culture you hear on the radio and watch on the TV in one word it would be this - Empty.
Today's listener of Hip Hop does not learn about the struggle of a people to be heard. They do not feel the hunger one endured as a child whose mother could not feed him. There is no understanding of the woman who is told and believes she has but one valued asset. There was a time when Hip Hop acted as the vessel by which social commentary was broadcast to the nation - the world even. Today these truths go unheard, drowned out by the praise of a rented life that Hip Hop today now portrays. Perhaps this is a result of wanting to display an image of success vs. the image of strife. It doesn't matter what the initial intent was when Puff Daddy came on the scene - or rather the screen- and completely disfigured the face of a movement that was coming into its prime. Maybe that's too harsh, but if you were in Hip Hop at that time you are well aware of the abrupt shift that occurred in the industry. When the moguls realized they could sell pop packaged in Hip Hop wrapping paper I doubt anyone stopped to think about the affect it would have on the culture from which the genre spawned. And trust I'm not saying there isn't need for the feel good do nothing more than make you wanna dance song, but I don't need to hear it on Monday at 7am; and then every hour after that until the following Monday when the rotation starts over. The variety, that eclectic mix that makes Hip Hop so unique has been traded in for a one size fits all version whose only purpose is to sell ringtones. That balance of work and play is missing from Hip Hop today. The industry has shifted to giving the listener what they think they want vs. what they need. And what the culture of Hip Hop needs, the youth now coming up in it today, is a history lesson. And that is said with the confession that I myself am still studying that history as well.
Hip Hop's purpose like most genres is to investigate, inform, and inspire through poetic verse. That is what I expect from Hip Hop. When I listen to a track I anticipate a story unfolding, I expect to experience a work of art. It isn't just entertainment for me. Its how I connected with a culture I was disjointed from due to the community I was raised in. I couldn't necessarily relate to what was being described because I didn't live that life, but it kept me from being ignorant to the way that others were living. I was drawn out of my bubble and into a greater society. It developed my conscience, and deepened my sense of social responsibility. Today the only thing Hip Hop is talking about on a large scale is to be self-important, self-concerned, and self-serving. And there is no accountability in the self absorbed world that has been created parallel to Hip Hops origins stealing its image and throwing it's substance to the side. Most of what you hear from your major labels today is disposable. The saying "not everything that glitters is gold" is how you have to look at Hip Hop now. You have to really search for the gems; that perfect combination of beat married to verse that causes you to sit back and reflect on the story being told. It is no longer served up on a silver platter. But I guess these days, that's exactly where the adventure of Hip Hop hides.
Quanstar is an American underground hip hop artist, indie filmmaker, comic creator, and self published author from Atlanta.