Category: Sunday Soapbox


 

hiphopheads

A solemn day for my tribe today. Marek Jacobs, one of the young brothers who brought me into Alpha at the University of Kansas, passed away after a fight with stomach cancer.

I can’t tell you the specific first time I met Brother Jacobs, but I imagine it was something along the lines of the picture you see above.  He was one of the brothers who was DJ’ing the Burge parties when I was a freshman, and I was one of the young brothers who would post up every Saturday night in front of or right behind the DJ table.  When I crossed the burning sands, I was one of the brothers who he passed the torch of the KU radio show, ‘The Hip Hop Hype’, to.  The very first documentary I did in Lawrence, which I can’t tell you the title anymore, but the subject was young black men adjusting to living/going to a school on a predominantly white campus; Marek was there.

When word got to me he was in a hospice, I sent a card to him, just to reiterate my appreciation for him.  He didn’t live to see it, but I hope he’s at peace now.  One of my last, best memories of him was after one of my shorts showed up on BET, and Sanaa Lathan read my biography afterward.  He loved that.  He saw something I did on TV.  He saw a movie star name check KU on TV.  He saw a return on his investment in me.  That makes me happy.

Tomorrow is promised to none of us.  Appreciate your people while they’re here.  And appreciate your own gifts.

 

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2017

I asked my family what they wanted for the holidays and the answer across the board was ‘My Time (and Attention).’

What perfect symbolism.

Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.  Who can really say if we’ve seen the worst yet?  But, when they literally came for the Muslims, I was ready.  All the other daily/weekly outrages that came (and are coming), it didn’t take a lot of soul searching to figure out where I stood.  There are little things that annoy you that you aren’t worth getting into a fuss over, and there are hills to die on.  I know I’m far from the only one where this year publicized more than one hill I was ready to sacrifice myself for, for the greater good.

Something else ironic about 2017.  Life came for me years ago, really.  Before any of the current world affairs craziness, I hit that psychological point of ‘Look, I’m going to have fun.  I’m going to laugh.  I’m going to love.  I don’t need any more stress.’  (Now we call this self-care, we definitely didn’t have the term back then.)  Many of you reading this know me ‘in real life.’  I don’t usually wear my stress on my sleeve, or my pain, or my insecurities.  There was definitely a part of me that felt, ‘Unless the war comes to my doorstep, I might be out…’

WELCOME TO 2017!!!

Literally hours before I started writing this, I was told another of the guys who looked out for me when I was younger is passing.  A part of me is heartbroken this morning, another part of me is again thankful that for the infinite number of personal and professional opportunities I’ve been given to Omorosa myself, I always stopped short when the vibe I felt was ‘This is cool right now, but long term if you want to ‘go home’, this will be a problem…’

I’m grateful for all of it.  I’m grateful for all of you. God willing, we’ll meet back here in 2018.

Peace be unto you.

 

 

finn

So, let’s talk about it.  If you haven’t seen it yet, last warning to stop reading…

I liked it.  I’ve also heard the full gamut of reactions: some people think it’s the best episode since “Empire”, some have called it absolute trash.  I’m in the middle obviously, but I think there are some valid questions to be asked.

First though, what I liked…

  • Subtle Nostalgia: Luke referring to Palpatine as ‘Darth Sidious’.  R2 using the ‘Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi’ video to bring Luke back into the fold.  And I don’t mind saying the eyes got a little misty when Master Yoda showed up.  There’s a lot of nice little moments like that.
  • Taking Chances: I love ‘the Empire Strikes Back’; I had legitimate concern they were going to just run all those story beats with the new characters.  But to their credit, pretty much from the beginning, had no idea where the story was going and couldn’t predict what would happen next.  Did every gamble work?  Hold that thought…
  • Supreme Leader Kylo Ren: We know who the bad guy is for Episode IX.  One of my nerd complaints about the Sith (which hasn’t been done in the movies until now) is we never see the Apprentice’s lust for power go full coup d’etat on the Master.  As far as the Dark Side of the Force goes, Kylo has no peers now.  Having said that…

Let’s get to the complaints which I think have some merit:

  • Great ideas, questionable execution: Kylo is the Supreme Leader now but…would someone as powerful as Snoke not sense the lightsaber two inches from him is being pointed at him?  Luke sensed Ben had the dark side in him but…would a Jedi Master really consider killing anyone in his sleep?  Let alone his star protege? Let alone his nephew?  I…don’t…know…
  • The Last Jedi: It’s really obvious now the story hole that’s been created by Carrie Fisher’s passing (RIP).  Still, this is the ‘Skywalker Saga’.  The people still aren’t fully invested in Ben Solo, and Rey is…not a Skywalker?  OK well…have fun with all that, JJ Abrams.
  • Finn: I’ve had a couple days to think about this now.  Adam and Oscar are clearly the ‘I’m a serious actor, not a movie star; only sitting on the end of Kimmel’s couch because Disney will break my kneecaps’ types; Jedi Bae is set up to have Keira Knightley’s acting/modeling career if that’s what she wants (and I really don’t know that she does, another conversation for another day).  Boyega is following Harrison Ford’s path: not the main character of Star Wars, but using the franchise to make himself the lead in his own franchise(s).  And that’s how you play the game.  But Finn, man…  His intro in this movie is half comatose, walking around in a leaking water bottle; the casino stuff was super cool but maybe not necessary (the idea/execution thing again), and when it looked like he was sacrificing himself by flying into the battering ram…I felt myself getting angry.  I brushed off the ‘Magic Negro’ critiques from ‘Awakens’; this time I felt it before the credits rolled.  We’ll see if JJ gives him a lightsaber again for Episode IX.

So a lot of nitpicks, but overall I still enjoyed it.  Go figure.

I guess the last word is I have more concern now for what Episode IX will be then I thought I would…

 

 

shes-gotta-have-it-netflix

I had no expectations for the Netflix version of ‘She’s Gotta Have It.’  We have ‘Insecure’ now.  We have ‘Dear White People’.  We have ‘Master of None.’ We have ‘Atlanta’.  All good to great in different ways, all cover being young and/or black, and/or single, and/or living in New York City.  That’s one.

Two: for all the shows listed above, part of my (selfish) enjoyment is being a generation removed from the ‘voice’ of the show.  Spike is of the generation before me, so right or wrong, I had concerns about someone two generations removed writing about the current scene.

Very happy to say I couldn’t be more wrong.  The Netflix version of ‘She’s Gotta Have It’ is very much its own thing: funny and serious and topical and told through the ‘Spike Lee New York City’ lens.

Add Dewanda Wise to the list of talented, beautiful dark skinned actresses who are taking advantage of the shots they’re given.  The 2017 version of Nola Darling is still a proud Brooklynite with three male suitors; the series fleshes out her artistry and her interest in each of her suitors very well.

I know how problematic Spike has felt about certain elements of his first film.  Pretty much every adaptation here works for the better.  Mars Blackmon in 2017 is a half Puerto Rican hip hop head? (Genius.)  Opal feels less like a lesbian predator and more like, possibly, Nola’s true love? (Brilliant.)  The post-Thanksgiving sexual assault is now a script flipping, female gaze on male sexuality?  (Outstanding).

It was a perfect binge for the holiday weekend.  Well worth checking out when you have time.

 

 

Chinatown

We were in Club 112.  It was the first night of the best Spring Break of my life, and we were kicking it with some Deltas from Spelman.  We made fast friends.  College.

A ‘homeboy’ comes to our area and starts hollering at the light skinned girl in our crew.  The rest of us giggle; he was wasting his time the moment he thought to walk over.  The girl I was bonding with leans over and says ‘Malik, watch this fool step to me next.’

Me: ‘Come on, he’s trying to get with your homegirl.  Ain’t no way…’

Homeboy: ‘Aye gal, what’s your story?’

I was stunned.  I was still a baby in the Game, but Homeboy was blowing past EVERY sign of initial attraction:  Is she making eye contact with you? (No.) Is she engaging with you in conversation? (Hell no.) Is she touching your arm as you talk, or any of the other million subtle body language moves that suggest she likes you? (Nein. Negative. Red Light. Sad trombone.)

That night sticks out in my mind as one of the earlier episodes of me realizing, that I was completely naive to how many experiences, played out from the point of view from my female friends, play out completely different.

Now, let’s add power to the equation.  Power corrupts, it just does.  Power feeds into our deepest insecurities.  And unchecked power?  Well…

You didn’t feel like ‘the cool kid’ in school? Maybe you wake up one day, and you’ve surrounded yourself by people who only tell you how great you are, and who never question the choices you make.

You grew up without money?  Maybe you only wear designer brands, have a 10 car garage and three houses so no one will ever question your material wealth again (since you can’t wear a credit score.  Or you shouldn’t…)

You grew up sexually frustrated or denied?  And you get to a station in life where even if people disagree with what you’re doing or frankly, it’s illegal, and you still don’t fear consequence?  Maybe…

I’ve said this in private conversations and I’ll repeat it here: it’s been something to see the tidal wave of momentum in favor of punishing bad behavior that’s been enabled for decades.  But the cynic in me still wonders if everyone is being honest about how much work is necessary to really ‘break the wheel’ (also see: systemic racism).

It’s a year late, but if part of the legacy of a certain someone’s political career is Hollywood looking in the mirror and cleaning itself up…I mean, that’s good.

I still refuse to use the phrase ‘silver lining’ in talking about him, but it’s good.

 

 

sanctuary

RACHEL: ‘What will you do?’

BRUCE: ‘Rebuild it.  Just the way it was, brick for brick.’

ALFRED: ‘Just the way it was, sir?’

BRUCE: ‘Yeah.  Why?’

ALFRED: ‘I thought this might be a good opportunity for improving the foundations.’

BRUCE: ‘In the southeast corner…’

ALFRED: ‘Precisely sir…’

 

‘White Like Me’

 

eddie

Found out over the weekend how deeply my family in Houston was affected by one hurricane, and how old classmates are in the path of Irma.  So instead of a musical diversion to start the weekend, we’re going comedy…

This, has always been my favorite Eddie Murphy thing.  Not ‘Coming to America’. Not ‘Raw.’ Not ‘Delirious’.  Some pure silliness (the walk, the ‘Tiger Woods’ voice), some ‘there’s some layers to this bit’ which you know I go for.

Went down an SNL rabbit hole last week and was surprised to find it.

Enjoy!

 

 

wet-hot-american-summer-ten-years-later-paul-rudd-marguerite-moreau

I was sitting at my desk when an L.A. number I didn’t recognize came up on the phone.

It was the Casting Director for ‘Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later.’  He tracked me down through my IMdB page.  The producers, Michael Showalter and David Wain, had a small part they wanted to fill, and they remembered me from other projects they cast me in, and the part was mine if I was available.

You know my response, but I’ll tell you the why (which is what I told the CD): when I was still in the ‘trying to break into the union’ phase, they gave me one of the jobs that got me over the hump.

So a few lessons/reminders here:

Relationships: ‘The State’ alums are the most famous, but there are a few other people over the years where we’ve done enough stuff together where at this point, if I’m free, I’m going to say yes before I even see the script or know what character I’m supposed to play.  One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever heard as an actor is ‘You only need five casting directors/producers to fall in love with you to have a career’.  If you’re playing the long game, building five relationships is an incredibly realistic number.

Reputation: I knew these guys respected me, honestly had no idea I did anything beyond being professional to make myself memorable, considering the hundreds of actors they know and I’m sure are trying to get their attention.  Anyway, made it to the set an hour before my call time with my lines memorized, shook hands and spoke to anyone who wanted to talk to me, from the security guards to the extras; a long day for the crew by the time I got there, and I did my part to get my scene (the last scene of the night as it turned out) wrapped in less than an hour.  So no, my lines didn’t make it into the final cut, but no one on set can say I made their jobs harder.  Maybe they’ll remember that…

Growth: I’m smiling as I look at the previous two paragraphs.  When I came to this town, I knew NOBODY.  And I had no playbook on how to conduct myself and treat others in a game where I was/am a complete outsider.  You figure these things out. You endure.  You try not to get too high or too low on any one thing.

And of course, you keep going.

 

 

Louis_Armstrong_(1955)

Hope everyone had a good 4th.  I’ve mastered the art of not obsessing about work when I don’t need to be thinking about it, so I remain in my good place.

Quick thought on the new Jay-Z album.  Is it a masterpiece?  Eh, I think we need more than a week before we give it that.  But it’s definitely the best Hov record in a long time.  May turn into a turning point for hip hop (genuine grown folk lyrics).  But as I’m saying, we will see…

Been enjoying the blues the last few days, so we’ll start the short work week with two of the masters.

Enjoy!

 

 

hasan-minhaj-07

What’s up?

So I don’t have a lot of deep thoughts this Eid. The train is rolling so this will be assorted quick hits…

‘Hasan Minhaj: Homecoming King.’  Uploaded to Netflix right around when Ramadan started, so I didn’t say anything that weekend.  But if you haven’t seen it yet, give yourself an hour to watch it.  Funny dude coming from a point of view we still don’t see often enough.

For someone who enjoys social media, I have to say…really didn’t miss it.  I’m back, and I enjoy being plugged in.  Do I need to be plugged in 24/7/365?  Don’t feel like it anymore (this space included).  Definitely shifting more into a ‘when I have something worthwhile to say/share, I’ll do it’ mode…

Having said that, I got all the texts, memes, notifications, songs and more while I was ‘away.’  They were all appreciated.  A lot of important phone calls made the past month.  The Dark Knight persona has served me well, but in terms of the truth of my life, it’s always nice to be reminded I’m not ‘alone’.  Not at all.

The future has never looked better; I’m looking forward to sharing my journey with you in due time.

Peace!