Tag Archive: Obama


 

Malcolm X kidding around with Muhammad Ali, New York, 1963

Another rotation around the sun nearly complete.  I’ve lived long enough to exist in Trump’s America.

Hooray…

Nearly all of us in life, will experience some personal and professional setbacks that screws up our plans.  I’ve lost more than one job, not from being fired but because the company as a whole went bankrupt.  I’ve had my fair share of family drama that crushed my spirit to the point of making me stop living my own life, so to speak.  In that way, I’m not unique in the slightest.

What makes me unique, at least in terms of identity politics, are my racial and religious identities.  In the Q&A I recently participated in, I was asked the question, ‘Do I feel being a Muslim has impacted my career?’  I’m paraphrasing, but my answer was ‘Probably.’

In my 20s, I worked at the Playboy Mansion, and had my own office on the Sony lot.  In the next phase, I’ve gotten to work with Issa Rae and Michael B. Jordan in their ascension, before they showed up on magazine covers.  So let’s be absolutely clear on this: I will never look at my life and say ‘Woe is me.’

But the answer is still ‘Probably’.  I can look back at both my personal life and my professional life, and see I’ve had more than a few opportunities to get to ‘the end.’  But the tradeoff if I would have made different choices had the feeling of crossing a point of no return in my relationships to my black friends.  Or to my Muslim friends.  Or both.

So I’ve sucked it up, and chosen to take the long way to achieve my goals.

I’ve leveled up in the last 365 days.  It didn’t literally take 20 years but it certainly feels that way.  I’ve noticed my mood swings one of three ways.  Most days I’m good; my ambition is more than enough to keep me focused on the next hurdle I aim to climb and what I need to do next.  On the good days, I can take pride in how far I’ve been able to go without destroying what I believe in.  On the bad days, I feel anger and resentment that I have to constantly hold myself and my decision making abilities to this Obama-esque level of near perfection.  My bad decisions aren’t as easily forgotten, my flaws aren’t shrugged off by either majority community that I respect but I’m not going out of my way to placate either.  The Game is the Game, but at this point I can see I will have a chip on my shoulder the rest of my days.  It is what it is.

At the end of the day though, I’ve fought and hustled and worked myself into a position where I get to live my life on my terms.  Not for one second do I take that for granted. Not for one second do I not recognize how rare that feeling is for anyone, let alone someone of my background.

I’m grateful and at peace with how much my life is the anomaly.  My fire still burns strong and I look forward to seeing what else I can achieve with the rest of my days.

Onward.

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Omar

In case any of my fellow fanboys or fangirls missed this, it’s well worth fifteen minutes of your time.

And yes, this was me during the whole exchange:

Enjoy!

 

While every Presidential election is hyped up as having the potential to ‘change the direction of the country’, 2012 represents a year where that could be the case regardless of who wins next week’s election.  President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney have established different viewpoints on several important issues, and have messages that cater to two completely different demographics. In this election, I’ll be voting for the re-election of President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.  I’ll give you a few (but not all) of my reasons below:

1. Obama is the more progressive of the two candidates.

‘Socialist’ is too extreme (and we will be coming back to the ‘e’ word), but an argument could be made that President Obama is the most progressive Commander in Chief in a long time.  It certainly hasn’t been perfect, but a real attempt has/is being made on reforming health care in America.  You can be cynical and call it a political ploy, but the fact remains as a sitting President up for re-election, Obama came out in support of gay marriage.

Vice President Biden brought up an excellent point in the Vice Presidential debate: in the next four years, it seems very likely that 2 new Supreme Court Justices will be appointed.  The legality/legal repercussions of the issues we debate now (and issues we haven’t thought of yet) will be going in front of the highest court of the land.  My personal preference is that the man making nominations for these posts would be a man with an already proven track record as a forward thinker.  Which brings me to point 2:

2. Degree of Difficulty

For some of the reasons mentioned and a largely understood but unspoken reason (don’t worry, I’m getting there), the sitting President of the United States has had one of the higher degrees of difficulty for his term in office to be considered a ‘success’.  We’re looking at a long road ahead before ‘the average American’ most likely will look at his (and his family’s) state of affairs and call it ‘prosperous’, but there is a sense that things are ever so slowly turning.  Unemployment numbers are moving again in the right direction, the housing market appears to have bottomed out.  As Commander in Chief, there was a plan for Iraq, there was a plan for Osama bin Laden; for those reasons, I’m willing to give President Obama some leeway when it comes to foreign affairs.  In terms of the alternative…something’s left to be desired.  Beyond the economy and Obamacare, you could bring up Guantanamo, Syria…a number of things to challenge the Obama presidency.  It feels like it started to come out during the debates, but why does it feel that way.

Which brings us to number 3:

3. ‘There, but for the grace of God go I.”

Man, listen.  Politics is probably the dirtiest business there is.  Even if you’ve never run for political office, in the ‘real world’ you’ve probably seen more politics than you’ve ever wanted to (even if you’re not always aware of it).  From nearly his first day in office, President Obama has exposed a very, very ugly side of this country.  Something beyond “Bill Clinton is a womanizer,” or “George W. Bush is a frat boy legacy kid.”  This is Donald Trump demanding a birth certificate (most of us learn in middle school you have to be born in this country to run for President; even someone as cynical as I have enough faith in our National Security to trust they would notice something that glaring.)  This is Hank Williams and Ted Nugent telling their fans about our ‘Muslim President’.  Obama is not a Muslim I assure you, but if he was…what is the problem?  And yes, of course, this is the Tea Party.

Now I know my fair share of Republicans.  We come from different backgrounds and obviously have different ideas about how to handle society’s problems.  That’s America.  You have ideas, I have ideas, we find a middle ground in the give and take, and keep the peace without resorting to disrespect.  That’s how politics usually function.  Maybe he didn’t have a choice in the current climate, but Governor Romney has chosen to embrace the most extreme elements of the Republican Party.  In 2012, it was probably what he had to do to win the Republican nomination.  In 2012, it was also, simultaneously, a move that antagonized a significant number of moderate minded voters (I’ll spare you a pun about an exact percentage).  But having said that, it should keep the President, the Democratic Party and many others wide awake for the next two weeks that for some of the things that have been said, no one feels this will be a landslide re-election.

Regardless, my vote will be going for Obama-Biden 2012.  My last point is just that; vote.  I’ve heard some of my more militant brothers and sisters say they’ll abstain from voting.  They have their reasons.  But as I’ve often noted, I’m a direct descendant from the rural South.  Any ‘right’ that my ancestors have bled and died for will always be a right I take full advantage of until the day I die.

Lighter subject matter later this week (I promise).

The Choice 2012

 

Let’s start with the answer to the question that will come up: I’m a registered Independent.  The short answer why, is while I certainly lean in a certain direction more often than not, I also have an aversion to giving any political party the assurance they can count on my vote no matter what they do.  So with that lovely introduction…

Malcolm X had a funny analogy he used when talking about American politics.  I’m paraphrasing but essentially he would compare Republicans to the wolves who bared their teeth (so you know exactly where they stood) and Democrats to the wolves who kept their teeth hidden (waiting to gain your trust before they ate you).  Near the end, his viewpoint evolved somewhat, and he saw positives in participating in the political system (the Ballot or the Bullet).  But in this current climate, I’ve thought more often than not about his older analogy.

Political Science 101 taught us that with a two party system, both sides will campaign toward the center (the magical ‘swing vote’ territory) before returning to their natural position after the election.  For the first time in my voting life however, we seem to be in the middle of an election cycle where the two parties are going into their respective National Conventions with ‘lines in the sand’ very far apart from each other.  In simpler terms, this year it seems improbable that anyone who follows politics could be ‘undecided’.  Depending on where you fall on the spectrum, both parties have done a great/horrifying job of painting the picture of what their plan will be for the future of this country.  The only thing both campaigns seem to have in common is an underlying message of ‘And do you know how screwed up we’ll all be if the other guy wins?”

As disconcerting as it is to think there are simultaneous campaigns for the Presidency using fear as a prime selling point, I’m more worried about what happens post November.  This much I know: one side will win, the other side will be even more angry and frustrated than they are now.  If this was a movie, we would be at the point where the supervillain shows the hero his two hostages, and lets the hero know he only has time to save one.  In the movies of course, this always works out: the hostages save each other or some ‘deus ex machina’ comes into play.

But again, this is real life.  When one side emerges victorious, are they going to extend an olive branch to their opponent?  Will the opponent accept it and go back to business as usual as far as politics go?

At this exact moment, I don’t know…

 

This is a story of passion, so let’s begin by using one of our passions as a way of easing into the story…

I was watching The Matrix Revolutions the other day.  Not as bad as people remember, but as we all know, the third film in trilogies have a habit of leaving some people very disappointed.  ANYWAY, on this particular viewing, I was struck by the last meeting between Neo and the Oracle.  Like Luke Skywalker before him, Neo gets petulant when his mentor has seemed to deny him vital information that she knew all along.  When Neo is stunned by her response that he wasn’t ready for the information, the Oracle points him toward a sign that’s been hanging over the door from the first time he met her: ‘Temet Nosce’ (Know Thyself).

I favor that analogy alot as of late.  As most of this calendar year has been spent pushing my abilities to their highest possible level, I’ve used this Ramadan to recognize how much of my natural laid back attitude I have allowed to seep into the core of who I am.  In plainer terms, I’ve felt that I’ve been a good Muslim for most of my life, but I certainly haven’t been the best Muslim I can possibly be.  The easy comeback is to blame it fully on a lack of maturity, but in ‘knowing thyself’ I know that is far too simplistic an explanation.

So, in the spirit of the comic book persona I’ve co-opted for so many years, I set a goal this month to rebuild ‘Malik Aziz’ from the ground floor.  Instead of simply trying to ‘correct’ bad habits that would be hard to break in a few weeks, I wanted to rebuild the entire foundation.  My goal for this Ramadan was to learn the Arabic alphabet; (I learned my prayers in Arabic many years ago, but I was/am still entirely too dependent on translation in other areas).  It’s a little embarrassing to admit this, but I didn’t have the ability to read or write my own name in its original language.  All of that has been corrected.  As the foundation of the house has been rebuilt, the other aspects of my life are on much stronger footing.  Still, that was essentially an educational goal.

The stars aligned this Ramadan for me to be a part of a study group, with other minds like mine who sought fellowship and a better understanding of the religion (and of ourselves).  This, in turn, opened the door to more iftars; some large events sponsored by organizations, some much more personal and domestic.  Not to go all Malcolm on you, but as an American Muslim it is one of the great advantages.  It’s a virtual Thanksgiving every night, with different specialties depending on the native culture of the host.  One of my goals for my next Ramadan is to host an iftar of my own.  No matter what Hank Williams Jr. thinks, I assure you the President of the United States is not a Muslim.  But for Obama to host an iftar at the White House, and for to not host one of my own now feels strangely out of place.  As I said though, that’s another thing that’s easily correctable.  My naturally open mind and free spirit hasn’t changed I assure you, but my renewed discipline is a welcome counterbalance to where I’m at now.

I’ll wrap this up with another old story.  Way back when we first came to this town, I remember vividly having a conversation with another classmate who was new to the City of Angels.  We were trading notes about our dreams.  He seemed impressed by the clarity of what I wanted: Part One is simply doing what I ‘do’, hopefully providing some positivity along the way.  And Part Two was not having what I do also become the defining characteristic of my home life; ideally it will provide for my wife and my children, but it won’t be something I have to ‘bring home’.  I can leave ‘work’ at work, and my ‘home’ would be my sanctuary.

And now, on the other side of this Ramadan, I’m 90 percent complete on my dream.  Or Islamically, I suppose I’m 50 percent (inside joke).  Either way, I’m a better man today than I was 30 days ago, which is an accomplishment unto itself.

A final Eid Mubarak to my Muslim brothers and sisters around the globe.  All praise is due to Allah, only the mistakes are mine.

The Chase

This is not a political post, but before I start, I have to acknowledge today’s events…

For my non-black friends and readers who mistakenly believe ‘all’ black folks fall on the the same spot on the political spectrum, you are about to see EXACTLY how conservative and/or liberal black folks can be when certain ‘issues’ are brought to the forefront.  I’ll stop there for now since, again, this isn’t a political post, and if we do need to have that discussion, we have from now until November.

As far as you’re concerned Obama, you genuinely surprised me today.  I never doubted where you stood, but I know you’re smart enough to know taking a stand now would alienate and polarize one of your key demographics.  In an election year!  But you did what any any real leader is supposed to do, you chose to take a stand on the right side of history at the possible/probable expense of some popularity in the here and now.  So, Salut Mr. President.

Now where was I?  Oh yes…

So my favorite TV show ever is The Wire.  Once a year since it’s stopped airing, I’ll watch all five seasons in succession just because I still enjoy it that much.

Anyway I’m midway through Season 3 and I get to the sequence of Avon’s coming home party in the nightclub.  (trust me, that’s not a spoiler)  I was reminded that one of my dreams when I was going through my Carlito Brigante phase was to own a nightclub.  That’s the part of my personality that loves going out and being around people.  A conversation with one of my frat brothers reminded me though, I did ‘own’ a nightclub in college.  I just got out of the Game before all the bad things went down.  People got shot, huge gang fights, brothers got subpoenaed to appear in court.  Yep, in college.  I’m not crazy about the concept of ‘luck’, but I do acknowledge that I’ve been pretty good over the course of a lifetime at cashing out my chips before things turn really sour.  Some of my female friends have also told me they consider us a microcosm of my personal life (all the perks, none of the drama).  I can’t print my response to that on the interwebs because my family reads this space, but let’s just say I strongly disagree with that assessment.

I do think though the nightclub metaphor has a lot of value.  It’s ‘the grass is greener’ philosophy, but taken to 11.  I don’t know how much of this is built into ‘the American Dream’, but most of adulthood seems to be basically chasing…something.  Money.  Sex.  Love.  Career.  But sometimes you get so caught up in ‘the chase’, you don’t see or acknowledge that what you want is right in front of you.  I’m as guilty of not recognizing what’s in front of me sometimes as anyone else.

So the moral to the story is don’t forget once in a while to stop, close your eyes, take a deep breath, stop thinking about what’s ‘over there’ and look at what’s ‘here’.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I plan to have the grand opening of ‘Twisted Steel’ in downtown L.A. around Spring 2013, so I have a lot of work to do.

What can I say?  “You know, I’m just a gangster I suppose…”

Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness?

 

One of the things I enjoy most about social media (Twitter specifically) is the ability to converse with people you may not get to in your normal routine of life.  I get on the interwebs and have fun (as you probably know since you’re online reading this).  One of the unexpected benefits that I’ve found over time is a number of people who are willing to have intelligent back and forths about whatever is on their minds.  Especially for an intellect like myself, the way I get better is by being challenged and thinking about how or why I feel a certain way.

Most of my followers are great for this but here are 4 guys you may know, that I follow who make my ‘Twitter barbershop’ (patent pending on that name…)

alpha1906: (Lawrence Ross) Respected black author, we met when he was promoting his book The Divine Nine.  A straight up L.A. guy, and dare I say an even more avid sports fan than myself (I don’t really do soccer).  In true Alpha style, he has an opinion on everything, but when it’s not ‘nation time’, he can be as silly as they come.

MistaChuckD: On the other hand, it’s ALWAYS Nation Time with Chuck, which is what we all love about him.  In this Twitter family analogy, Chuck is the big brother you don’t even bother unless you already got your ish together.  You think you know the answer and you go to Public Enemy Number One, and he’ll have you considering things you hadn’t thought of.

Roland Martin: Also a frat brother, Roland is the ‘loud’ one, or the ‘host’ of the get together (pun intended).  In real life he’d be the brother who won’t let you bring anything messy into his house or Cadillac (or ascot) cause he takes too much pride in being the cleanest of the brothers.  Like the others though, when someone (anyone) gets too far out of line, the jokes will stop and he’ll call you out on it.  Everybody needs at least one guy like that in their corner.

And then there’s Toure.  I see him as the educated rebel.  Some of Chuck’s ability to agitate, some of Lawrence’s appreciation for history, some of Roland’s charisma.  But definitely his own guy. When you were kids, he talked you into throwing rocks at the neighbor’s window.  If you were a boy he’d be the brother or cousin who you had the most fistfights with.  But it was never out of malice; he genuinely needed to know if you had the ability to beat him up.   And pushing people’s buttons was just icing on the cake.  So that brings us to his newest book, ‘Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness?’

Let’s start with the title, or rather the phrase ‘Post-Black’, which definitely irks some people. I even got some side profile from a sista who wanted me to explain it in a tweet when she saw us talking (thanks Toure).  I couldn’t do it then but I’ll do my best to break it down here:

‘Post-Black’ as Toure means it (or as I interpret it), is meant to represent the post Civil Rights generation that is undeniably proud of being Black, but at the same time want the freedom to say, ‘But that’s not all I am.” In the book and in discussions he often uses the talking point of ‘what Black people don’t do’ which is part of it, but the full defintion of this should also include ‘what Black people aren’t.’  He goes into the ‘talking white’ point and ‘the closer you are to the ghetto the Blacker you are’ myths; to my point I think he could have gone deeper into how many interracial people and gays have to deal with the identity crisis of ‘You’re not really Black” or “the Black community will not accept who you are”.  Moving on…

For the heavy subject matter I thought the book was an enjoyable read.  The intro was written by Michael Eric Dyson, who I’m also a fan of.  Having said that, if you thought my intro for this piece was heavy, you probably want to skip the intro for the book.  I’ve got my Masters degree, and I was still reading Dyson’s part saying to myself, “Brother, I’m lying in bed trying to decompress, lay off the big money words….”

Once Toure takes over, the flow is much easier to get into.  I especially liked the chapter about Obama (one of the better pieces I feel that breaks down exactly how and why he’s been on a zero tolerance way of live since he won that primary in Iowa), and his personal stories about returning to Africa (I still don’t know if I agree with his point, but he makes a strong case for why it’s understandable but false that we refer to ourselves as ‘African-Americans’).

I went and shook the brother’s hand tonight when he was in town for a Q&A.  He opened up by saying this book wasn’t supposed to be ‘the Answer’ but a conversation starter, and I certainly think it’s that.  Damn agitator. (Kidding Toure).

If the writing is unclear below, he signed my copy, ‘Malik, Always be Black however the Hell you want!”  Well, it’s like they say, ‘Once you go to the Opera, you don’t go back.’ Or something to that effect.  Nevertheless, have a good weekend everybody.

 

I’ve talked a lot about what I am, and not much lately about what I do.  I’ve been treated to some pleasant news which through sheer coincidence of timing came while I’ve been fasting.

The last script that I wrote was a semi-autobiographical story about growing up as a Muslim in pre and post 9/11 America.  I didn’t and still don’t view it as the next Will Smith picture, so I only sent it to those who I thought might have an interest in the point of view I was presenting.  One of those groups were the Sundance Institute, and I learned about a week ago they liked what I’ve pitched enough that they want to see more.  Very flattering.  Even my folks back home who know nothing about the Biz recognize that brand name (‘the thing in Utah’ as my father put it), so potentially down the line, that could be a game changer.

Right now it’s just an opportunity so I only gave myself a little time to ‘daydream’ on what could be.  What I write in this space on the subject matter is a reflection of my outlook on the world, but if you keep up with me at all, you know when I put on ‘a show’, I’ll give you a show.  The story I wrote is not an in your face political statement like some of Spike’s films. Even with the subject matter, it’s not a redemption story like a lot of Tyler’s movies. The comment I’ve heard the most from people who’ve read the script is “I was surprised at how funny this is,”; in other words it’s an extension of my strong suits as a storyteller, the self deprecating clown, the sarcastic geek, the hopeless romantic (think Lady In My Life).

So I completed another pass of the script this weekend, and we’ll see what happens at the end of the year.  Through the circles I run in, I know I’m not the only film school geek in the mix, nor am I the only Muslim filmmaker they’re looking at.  Nothing is a done deal, but they’re getting my best effort so if I’m meant to go down that road, I will. For the time being, I’ll return my focus to what I can control this week and this month, and hopefully get another pleasant surprise down the line.

A Day Later

When something dramatic happens, I try (if I can) to wait a day before really reacting to it.  The gut reaction is usually the right one, but emotions can severely cloud judgment as well.

So to go from the initial reports (‘The President is making an announcement, and it can’t wait until tomorrow’) which create nothing but dread, to the rumors that led to what Obama was really announcing, I had, and continue to have conflicting emotions about it.

Death: as Biggie said after Pac died, ‘There ain’t no coming back from that.’ A few of you have found a great quote that Dr. King that is a more eloquent way of saying the same thing.  While as a country we don’t officially teach an eye for an eye, I know I wasn’t remotely surprised when I saw kids dancing in the streets when the announcement was made.  And I know the next generation of terrorists were watching that too, using it as proof we want to ‘get them’ as bad as they want to ‘get us.’

But how can I not feel a degree of closure in knowing the man who financed the worst terrorist attack on American soil finally met his end?  You know and I know that what happened that day made ripples way outside of Manhattan; it created a dark cloud over every aspect of American life.  The way we travel obviously, the way we react toward other cultures, even in some ways I think the loss of respect between our two political parties.

I wasn’t too worried it would happen, but it is nice to know the powers that be recognize they’ve only killed the figurehead of an anti-American movement that will continue.  It would be nice to believe that we could bring all the troops back in six months, but that doesn’t seem practical.  There’s a whole new set of questions to start asking now (that I’m sure my more politically minded friends are already working on).

You know who I’m happiest for?  Our military.  I had and have family and friends stationed all over the world, and it has to be gratifying for them to know this ‘goal’ they’ve been working on for so long has been accomplished.  You’re aware of it, but last night was one of those reminders that there are cats risking their life everyday to protect our way of life.  Can’t say that about my job, can you?  So to any of my people in the military who happen to reading this, thanks again for what you do.

Now let’s see what comes next…

 

Today the hip hop nation takes pause for 2Pac’s birthday.  He would have been 39.  It’s a strange reality to me to know there’s a generation who know of 2Pac through videos and old footage, but who didn’t live through his peak years.

Like some but not all, I had a love/hate relationship with 2Pac while he was alive.  I loved the passion of his voice, I loved the depth of his lyrics.  In my circle we define a movie star as a guy the guys would hang out with and the girls would bone.  By that definition 2Pac is still hip hop’s biggest ‘movie star’ to date. 

What I didn’t care for where the extremes of his personality.  How could the same man who made ‘Keep Your Head Up’ and ‘Dear Mama’ be part of a gang rape?  How could the son of a Black Panther throw a whole Coast of black people under the bus so…violently?

If Pac was our real life version of Bishop, or Tony Montana, or Nino Brown, then it feels no less sad but maybe less surprising he had the same violent end those characters did. 

The Hate U Give Little Infants Fux Everybody.  Was this prophetic?  Ironic?  Both?  From the time Pac died (and really after Biggie died), the shift started.  Some really do grow up with no sense of ‘options’ or ‘hope’ of living a life different from what their parents or grandparents had.  But for pretty much any young black person who grew up in at least a lower middle class background (like myself), we had to ask ourselves, “Look I love the music and I love my culture, but I’m not trying to DIE over this!”  There were of course those who were talking down to the gangsta rap culture from day one, but how often do people react positively when they know you’re talking down to them? 

Baby steps.  Sometimes one step forward, two steps back.  Where I went to college, there was a very infamous ‘Welcome Back to School Party’ where a member of one historically black fraternity pointed a gun at the member of another historically black fraternity.  And yes, choas ensued.  I still chuckle as I remember one of the freshmen, his eyes still bugging out of his head, coming up to me and saying, “Malik, is THIS what college is like?!?” 

(As an aside, I’m not trying to ride my high horse for those of you who vividly remember that night in our lives.  As a matter of fact, it was one of my fraternity brothers who took me out to shoot my first automatic.  Riding around Douglas County Kansas bumping Makaveli’s ‘Me and My Girlfriend’.  Now THAT’s irony!)

Anyway in pop culture black artists have gone from being genuinely tense, to mocking how we took some things a little too seriously.   Everything from Chappelle’s ‘When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong’ to the Huey/Riley dynamic on the Boondocks to the Wire have deglamourized the gangster lifestyle (since 99.9 percent of the time it ends only one of two ways – death or jail).  These shows have all illustrated how we both embrace the ‘outlaw’ lifestyle (and always will) but for the most part have learned the lesson about letting real gangsters do gangster things, and the rest of us will watch from a safe distance.

In some of his last interviews, Pac talked about forming a new political party and running for President.  That’s still funny to me, but none of us would have ever imagined a little more than 10 years later there would actually be a black President.  Or for that matter, Snoop and Diddy sitting next to each other courtside at a Lakers game.

I guess what I’m really saying is that for all my complaints over the years about 2Pac or the ‘thug culture’ or the state of hip hop today, in the end, it is still my culture and I will still take pride in its success and defend it.