Pizon at Northern Virginia Community College 10/30

October 29, 2008

Northern Virginia Community College (Annandale)
8333 Little River Turnpike
Annandale, VA 22003

We’ll have a table set up Monday through Thursday from 9am to 4pm to encourage everyone to vote In-Person Absentee (early voting).  We want everybody to know that they can avoid the long lines on Election Day.  We’ll be distributing flyers telling them where and when they can vote as early as TODAY!

Pizon will be volunteering at this function from 12 noon to 4pm on Thursday.  “Despite my best efforts to stay inside this week, I had to do my part to help get out the vote in these last few days before the election.  It’s going to come down to a few critical states, and Virginia is going to be one of them, so it’s important that everyone in the commonwealth makes his or her voice heard.”

Directions:  From the Beltway, take Rt. 236 (Little River Turnpike) West.  After about 1 mile, turn Left on Wakefield Chapel Rd.  The campus is on your left.  Park in the 5-level garage for $1/hour.  We’ll be on the Plaza in front of the CF Building.  If the weather is bad, we’ll be in the Cafeteria on the lower level of the CF Building.

Observations from Scribble Jam

October 28, 2008

-The 11-hour drive to Cincinnati isn’t quite as brutal when you’re used to making several trips between NY and VA per month, sometimes going back and forth the same day.  It also helps when someone else is doing some of the driving, you’ve got GPS, and you have a rental so as not to worry about adding all those extra miles to your own car.  Don’t get me wrong, now that I’m back I want to stay home all week, but the travel experience I’ve racked up over the past few years made this year’s trip to Scribble Jam seem more manageable than its 2003 and 2004 counterparts.

-On the flip side, the attendance level this year was considerably lower than it was the last two times I went.  I’d attribute that to the economy, a general declining interest in Hip Hop, and STAGING AN OUTDOOR FESTIVAL IN LATE OCTOBER.  Moving it from the summer to the fall was a mistake.  There were still thousands of people out there, but not tens of.  Having to wear a winter coat all weekend wasn’t the greatest thing in the world.

-Being a swing state, Ohio was cluttered with campaign signs on nearly every lawn.  Cincinnati in particular is a major population center for the state and one of the key areas that will decide the election.  For those not up on the electoral map:  without Ohio, John McCain would have to win every other remaining swing state and both Virginia and Pennsylvania — two states where he’s behind by seven to twelve points — to win the White House.  As that’s a highly unlikely scenario, he absolutely needs to win Ohio to stay alive (and even then his chances are still slim).  In Cincinnati this past weekend, about three out of four signs that I saw were for Obama.  That’s good news.  I did get a laugh out of seeing one lawn with both an Obama and McCain sign, illustrating the overall indecisiveness of the state.

-Gas was $2.4X a gallon and a two-bed Howard Johnson hotel room cost $60 per night.  Every time I travel outside the region, I feel like a dumbass for living in the northeast.  Being right across the river from Kentucky, the girls also have country accents which is always welcome.  Kno told me in 2003 that everything closes early in Cincy so if you want food after midnight, you’re best served going to the Waffle House in KY.  For the sake of tradition, we went there again this year (and saw the same cops waiting the tables) but we also found a 24-hour I-Hop in Cincinnati with the help of Timid’s iPhone that we hit up the second night.

-This one dude from Cali stopped us and said, “You’re from New York, right?”  Timid said, “Yeah, how’d you know?” and he replied, pointing to my Yankees hat:  “Because of the hat, and how fly y’all are dressed.”  A photographer also excitedly asked me if I painted my own sneakers.  I said no, but that didn’t erode his excitement any, and he asked if he could take a picture of the footwear.  As he was taking the flick, Timid told me, “I guess that officially makes you fresh.”  A girl also asked if she could “rub against my puffy coat,” but I question her motives there.  Not that I’m complaining.  I was looking good.

-The entries for the video battle were playing on a flat screen all day Saturday, including Timid’s “Let Freedom Ring,” which was the main reason we went.  There was a problem with the playback on their screen, so we wanted to make sure it wasn’t like that on the version the judges had.  This mission somehow led us to Eyedea’s mom, who gave Timid psychology advice for 10 cents.  Don’t ask.  The I-Dee video with Wrekonize and Jean Grae ended up taking the battle, and none of them were even there.  I was also disappointed that they only played the first minute and a half of each video in the finals, because the critical Vote message of “Let Freedom Ring” doesn’t play out until the end.  Surprisingly, there was very little focus on the election at Scribble Jam this year.  I figured every artist would be talking about it constantly on stage, but very few did.  In 2004, it was all anyone talked about.

-KRS-One is batshit crazy, but it was good to finally see him perform live.  He ran through all his classics in the first fifteen minutes of his set, then did some weird freestyling for close to an hour, including a piece that went nowhere fast about how he’s really two people, one of whom is living three hours in the future.  He wouldn’t shut up, so the club actually had to cut his mic off in the middle of the freestyle.

-My favorite moment from the emcee battle was when two Asian rappers went at it and exchanged disses like, “My kung fu is better than yours” and “We’re from the same country, but he’s from the Communist part.”  A Hawaiian emcee was also told to get off stage and “go rhyme battle a pineapple.”  On the whole, the battle was lacking compared to 2003 and 2004, which just had more talent such as Swann, Rhymefest, Juice, Deacon the Villain, Pack FM, Breez Evahflowin, and others.  This year it came down to 2005’s winner The Saurus and last year’s winner No Can Do, with Saurus winning the $10,000 in the end.  He did so by kissing up to the judges in the final round, then shamelessly admitting it in his rhyme.

-Speaking of the judges, they included Block McCloud of Brooklyn Academy, the group with whom we ended up kicking it with the most.  Of the other two members, Pumpkinhead was hosting the battle, and Mr. Metaphor was just happy to be somewhere without his girl.  They also performed a set before the emcee battle.  Another Rawkus 50 artist Cymarshall Law performed and was judging as well.  In fact, we knew most of the performers and judges this year personally, which would indicate a strong possibility of stage time next year.  Nonetheless, our presence was felt throughout the weekend.

Don’t forget, November 2nd is the NYC Marathon featuring a very special performance by Timid and myself at around 1 PM on 115th Street and 5th Avenue.  Until then, I’m probably not coming out the house!

“Dreams Come True” tops The Track Meet

October 22, 2008

RapReviews.com writer Nervous has created a “Hot or Not”-like site for music, where users can listen to song samples and anonymously rate what they hear on a scale of 1 to 10.  In his words:

Like a lot of you, I have spent a considerable amount of time on sites like MySpace and SoundClick checking out other people’s music and trying to get them to check mine out too.

One day, I had a brainstorm: wouldn’t it be nice to have a place where you did not have to worry about heavy graphics and big files loading and could just concentrate on the tracks? No marketing tricks, just go from track to track and concentrate on the music?

The result of this idea is The Track Meet, to which we happily contributed “Dreams Come True” for rating purposes.  After all, who knows more about what’s really hot than the listeners themselves?

The listeners have spoken, and “Dreams Come True” is solidly holding down the #1 spot in the Top 50, currently averaging nearly two points above the next highest rated track.  Though the lead single from the upcoming Family Business album has appeared on record charts and received industry shine, this is something of a “People’s Choice” type distinction coming directly from the listening public.  So for that, we thank you.

And don’t forget to vote yourself:  when it comes to the Track Meet, you don’t have to wait another two weeks for your voice to be heard!

Family Affair on HoneybabyWorld

October 19, 2008

Peace to the the German blog site HoneybabyWorld for posting up the Family Affair mixtape, released last month as a free download to promote The Fam’s upcoming studio album Family Business.  If you haven’t already done so, don’t forget to download the mixtape and call 212-845-9935 to leave a voice message for Pizon, Timid, and EJ of The Fam.

Download the mixtape now.

My thoughts on last night’s debate

October 16, 2008

Video blog: Morgan State Googleable Weekend

October 13, 2008

Back from the road: Morgan State, DC, and Nat’l Harbor

October 8, 2008

It’s Wednesday already?  Damn.  Well, the reason this recap is overdue is because I’ve quite honestly been tired as shit.  I’ve been home since early Sunday and I’m just now feeling caught up — on both my sleep, and the work I’ve missed since being away.  We do have a video blog of the trip coming up, but that doesn’t preclude the obligatory Pizon write-up.  So, let’s get to it…

Thursday, October 2

As reported on the site last week, Timid and I were scheduled to make an appearance at Morgan State University in Baltimore on Thursday.  First I heard it was going to be an Obama rally, then I found out it was a non-partisan event designed to get people to register to vote.  As far as I’m concerned, they’re one in the same — especially at colleges, and even more so at HBCUs like Morgan State.  It’s a safe assumption that the more people who register to vote, the better Obama will fare in the election.  That afforded us the opportunity to support our candidate without shoving a specific political agenda down anyone’s throat.  Our stated mission was therefore just “Register and vote.”  We didn’t even have to say who for.  Not everyone at the rally took that approach, as you’ll read in a minute.

Since the rally started at 10 AM and we wanted to get there early, we left New York at about 4:30 in the morning.  I worked through the night on Tuesday, so I had been up since late Wednesday afternoon.  It didn’t make sense to try to sleep again before the trip.  To put it in normal people terms, it was dinner time on my internal clock when we left.  It would be about bed time when we got there.  Thank God for Red Bull.  We did make good time — facilitated by my energy drink boost and lack of traffic in the middle of the night — and pulled into Morgan State with an hour to spare.  The guy who arranged for us to make the appearance wasn’t even there yet.  He was a student at the school named KB who had originally seen myself and Timid performing on a TV show in Maryland, and reached out for this event.  I later found out that he even listened to my local radio show in the DC area, so this dude was a fan.  It was mad cold outside when we started wandering around campus trying to figure out where to go.  We had heard (and hoped) the rally would be indoors, but those dreams were crushed when we saw people building a stage outside.  I put my hood up and waited patiently, when this kid approached me and said, “You’re Pizon, right?”  That’s right.  Even with the hood up, I was recognized.  Next time I’m in the airport, I might have to wear a mask.  Of course, it was KB.  He stayed with us and acted as our tour guide on campus as the rally finally got underway.

Now, the rally itself wasn’t in support of any particular politician, but instead there were representatives from every principal political party present trying to convince students to vote for their candidate.  Every party, that is, except for the Republicans.  Morgan State was actually the university where John McCain infamously no-showed the debate last year, so nobody from his camp agreed to appear.  As a result, the vibe was overwhelmingly pro-Obama with politely ignored Independent and Green Party support added to the mix.  We waited behind the stage until it was our time to rock, and we did our thing as the only pure rappers on the bill among speakers, singers, and spoken word artists.  After our rendition of “Let Freedom Ring” which had the students screaming back the chorus with great defiance at the current administration, I told the crowd that I wanted to say a few words about the importance of voting.

My speech was in rebuttal to the sentiment that citizens of non-swing states such as Maryland do not have to vote because one side is already expected to win.  While Maryland as an example may already be a “blue” state, it will turn red if enough people have the attitude that their vote doesn’t matter.  Those polls that project a winner in a particular state are based on the assumption that people will actually vote for whom they support on Election Day.  The other side is banking on complacency, and enough negligence will make any purported blue state bleed.  I also brought up the election of 2000, where one candidate won the popular vote and the other (was awarded) the electoral college.  Regardless of whom you support, we do not want a repeat of that disaster and we want to ensure that the next president, unlike the current one, is serving under the will of the American people.  On that front, it doesn’t matter if you live in Maryland or Mississippi:  let’s get to the polls in record numbers this year and make sure our candidate wins the popular vote by an unprecedented margin.  That line got a very good response.  Timid later pointed out that politicans look at which demographics are voting and they tend to cater to those groups upon being elected.  So if college students don’t vote, why bother supporting legislation that will benefit them?  That’s also a good point.

It was a strong turnout, and I’m happy to say that hundreds of people were registered to vote that day.

Towards the end of the rally, while other guests were speaking, Timid said he wanted a drink and KB was nice enough to lead us to the student center and buy us some juice.  He asked if we wanted to shoot some pool (they had a nice billiard area with about a dozen clean pool tables), and Timid said, “I think we just want to sit.”  I was probably more ready to crash than he was at that point, because I’d been up longer and did all the driving, while he had slept both before we left and in the car.  Regardless, we chatted with KB for a while and filmed some footage for the video blog.  Before we left Morgan State, he wanted to hook us up with the local Hip Hop radio show for an interview.  It turned out to be a wild goose chase trying to find the host of the show on campus, who turned out to be… at the radio station.  What do they say about overlooking the obvious?  Once in the right building, we actually got locked in the stairwell for a while, which you should see on the video.  Finally, we reached our destination:  the Electric Relaxation show on WMUR Radio, hosted by none other than Anzea Hart.  We basically invaded her studio and demanded an interview on the spot.  Timid did most of the talking, as he was the one actually booked for the rally to begin with, but I chimed in when necessary.  A funny moment was when he spoke about the lack of Republican presence at the event and proclaimed that “John McCain does not care about black people.”  Once the audio is online, I’ll post it up.

By now, it was Thursday afternoon and there was a show in NYC that night whose promoter swore had spoken with our management the week before and worked something out.  This was news to us, but we were considering driving back to New York to do the show, then back again to Maryland and the DC area for our weekend engagements.  Unfortunately, things didn’t work out with the promoter.  Besides, we really wanted to watch the vice presidential debate.  After leaving Baltimore, we drove down to Alexandria, VA and checked into a hotel room.  I think Timid went out for food.  I lay down and told him to make sure I was up when the debate started.  After managing a few hours of sleep, the debate was on.  I’m not going to offer a long-winded analysis of the debate itself, but I will point out as others have how Palin was completely in over her head and resorted to basic talking points that often had nothing to do with the questions being asked.  Never before in American history has a candidate on a major ticket been so unfit to lead the country.  After Biden squashed her, a friend of mine called and asked if we wanted to stop by.  She only lived six blocks or so from our hotel so it was nothing.  Shortly after arriving, her husband came home with a pack of his rapper friends and their CD.  It was a trap!  They plugged in a boombox and forced us to listen to their music.  In all seriousness, they were good people and that is the kind of drive you need to succeed in this industry.  Some more well known rappers from New York are in town?  Make sure they hear you.  We all watched some of the Chris Rock special as they asked for some music business advice, which we were happy to give them.  Hours later, just about everyone in the apartment was crashed out, and we took that as our cue to go back to the hotel.

Friday, October 3

On Friday, Timid’s boy Taz from Japan (who produced “Learn to Unlearn” on the Family Affair mixtape, a song also recorded in Japan) was scheduled to arrive for an appearance at the Adidas store in DC that night.  He was supposed to be staying at the Red Roof in Oxon Hill, MD so we checked out of our VA hotel and checked into that one.  Still tired, I tried catching up on more sleep in the new hotel but wasn’t too successful.  It turned out that Taz was moved to a different hotel, so we ended up switching for nothing.  The DC event was to promote another event the following night at an art gallery in National Harbor, MD.  When we arrived at the Adidas store in DC, the organizer Shane Pomajambo started snapping pictures of us with Taz immediately.  We talked, and were offered a performance slot at the art gallery show the following night.  It was an urban art gallery, and Shane who was promoting both nights’ events was also from Queens so he was excited about doing business.  The Adidas store basically turned into a house party, with a DJ spinning Hip Hop and free vodka being served to me.  Nice!  Plenty of flyers for the following night’s art gallery show were given out.  After it was over, a group of us went to Unos for food, and we tried to convince the waitress and her girls to party with us after her shift.  Taz had just gotten to the States, so he was trying to party.  We ended up hitting up Adams Morgan, but it was after 3 AM and nothing was really open.  We got back to the hotel at 5 AM and had to check out by 11.  I ended up getting a couple hours’ sleep at best, and by 8:00 was up for good.

Saturday, October 4

Since I now had another performance scheduled for that night, I had to go shopping for an outfit.  We hit up Springfield Mall on Saturday morning, and I copped a few shirts from Macy’s.  For lunch, we met with someone else I hadn’t seen in a while at the diner by the mall.  Since we were essentially homeless at that point, we decided to chill at Taz’s hotel in National Harbor until the show.  If you’re asking what National Harbor is, you’re not alone.  I stayed in the DC area for a year and never heard of it.  It’s actually a whole new development by the Potomac River, on the Maryland side, that was all trees a few years ago.  It’s so new that my GPS couldn’t find it, and it was convinced I was driving off road when I was there.

It is a real nice spot on the water that’s still being built up, though.  Supposedly they’re in the process of building 22 bars, so you know the night life is going to be popping off there as soon as they open.  Right now, it’s mostly just hotels and shops.  One of the shops is the Art Whino art gallery, where that night’s event would take place.  The area is pretty upscale, and the $300/night hotel room was quite lavish.  Waterfront view.  Flat screen TV on the wall.  The most welcoming mattress you’ve ever felt.  That was all it took for me, and once again I was attempting sleep.  The artist that flew from Japan with Taz stayed in the room to continue painting his exhibit for the night’s show, while Timid and Taz went down to the gallery.  I woke up an hour or so later, and dude was still painting.  I went into the bathroom and changed into one of my new shirts, and was ready to perform.  Another good turnout was had at the art show, with many people coming through to look at the artwork and enjoy the music.  Unfortunately, we would learn that no mics were available, since our performance was booked so last minute.  The DJ had his setup and was spinning records, but that wouldn’t help us.  They tried to make some calls to get us some mics, but nothing was really panning out.  It was also getting late, and I had other obligations in New York so we decided to hit the road.  There were no hard feelings because we got to make our appearances at the two events and network with everyone, and you can bet we’ll be back in the future to do something official.  Plus, we got free drinks and had a good time.  It was also great finally meeting Taz, who has always been a big supporter from Japan.

After getting back to New York at 2 in the morning on Sunday, I actually had more people to meet up with.  I think I got home at about 7 AM.  From Wednesday until Sunday, I hadn’t gotten more than a few hours of sleep at a time.  It’s been an uphill battle since then, but I’m finally getting back into the swing of things.  Peace to Timid, KB, Zea, WMUR, all of Morgan State, Shane, Taz, and the other cast of characters I met along the way.  Video blog coming soon!