Official Statement on Chris Brown and Rihanna

February 26, 2009

I founded Hip Hop Is Not the Enemy two years ago in response to the media backlash against Hip Hop following the Don Imus controversy:  an attention-seeking shock jock had made a racist and sexist comment about a female basketball team, and somehow it was our fault.  That wasn’t to say criticisms against potentially inflammatory lyrics or symbolism on our part weren’t valid, but to act as though our culture was solely responsible for the existence of society’s ills was as irresponsible as it was disingenuous.  In the literature for the initiative, I wrote:   “[Our lyrics] are merely a reflection of the world we live in.  It is therefore the world at large that needs to be examined.”  Instead of advocating censorship or “cleaning up the lyrics” to sweep problems under the rug, I supported focusing on the problems themselves. To prove that the Hip Hop community was a part of the solution, I aimed for us to come together to raise money and awareness to fight domestic violence.

Why domestic violence?

For one, Hip Hop was being accused of fostering the environment that purportedly made the whole world — including out of touch old white men in cowboy hats, apparently — believe it to be socially acceptable to mistreat women in real life.  This was, however, only one of the problems I envisioned Hip Hop Is Not the Enemy addressing (for instance, we later additionally set up relief funds for hurricane victims).  The principal reason I wanted to start with domestic violence was because I had an emotional attachment to the issue.  I made it no secret that a woman I loved was allegedly being abused.  The single to my album was about the situation.  Though not many people were discussing the topic in general, I did not consider it to be particularly erratic or inaccessible:  one in four women will be abused by a partner in her lifetime.  As someone who was feeling helpless from afar as a person I cared about was being violated, it positively boiled my blood to know that people were blaming it all on me.

Since its inception, Hip Hop Is Not the Enemy has accrued 200 members on Facebook, about 1,500 supporters on MySpace, and a few hundred dollars in donations to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.  That may not sound like much, but it’s a start.  I’m still committed to the cause and have long-term plans to turn the initiative into a full-fledged nonprofit organization.  I worked closely with a few such organizations outside of DC over the last few years to better understand how they operate.  I’m currently looking for people to get involved in a more serious capacity to take this cause to the next level.

With all that said, some may wonder why I have yet to officially comment on the situation that transpired before the Grammys that everyone is still talking about.  I assure you that it has nothing to do with the fact that Chris Brown has sung my lyrics, or that I had a crush on Rihanna before she cut her hair.  Above all, I’ve been witnessing all the gossip and felt I had nothing meaningful to add to the conversation.  My efforts are about Hip Hop’s role in society, and neither of the artists in question are a part of Hip Hop — though they do have loose ties and one might expect the masses to associate them with our culture, perhaps due to their ages most seem to be correctly identifying them as proponents of pop culture instead.  I am guilty of making inappropriate jokes amongst friends about rumors surrounding the cirumstances behind the dispute, but obviously hold the position that domestic violence itself is no laughing matter.  That doesn’t change whether or not it involves singers, people we know in person, or whether or not it actually happened.

An important fact to keep in mind is that we don’t know what happened, and should not be making judgments against anyone until the case has been decided in a court of law.  One of my core values is that everyone should be afforded due process and presumed innocent until proven guilty.  I personally believe it should be illegal for newspapers to print stories about suspected criminals prior to their trials, because that affects the public perception.  The jury pool is now tainted after the TMZ picture leaked, and a fair trial in this case may now be impossible.

Of course, the TMZ picture is the elephant in the room that I’ve been avoiding.  Seeing that brought me back to the time when I was going through my personal situation, which was quite possibly the scariest time of my life.  I literally felt my blood pressure rise when I saw that picture.  It would not be unreasonable to assume that I’ve mostly been quiet about this situation because I did not want to relive that nightmare.  Maybe that’s why people are usually quiet about domestic violence.  Maybe it’s a good thing people are talking about it now that it involves figures so disconnected from their realities, but I have to admit:  it bothered me that it took this happening to celebrities for people to start caring.

In any case, I know it’s easier to preach the importance of staying rational than it is to practice when emotions are involved.  I wasn’t trying to hear about presumption of innocence when I was told someone was being abusive to the person I loved.  I was trying to bypass the judge and the jury and kill him myself.  But then, something happened.  I saw his picture and realized he was human like me.  He wasn’t the horned monster I was picturing.  Somehow, I forgave him.  I think people tend to put those we love and admire on a pedestal, and we view those who do things we don’t like as beneath us.  The truth is that in the grand scheme of things we’re all so close to being on the same level that it’s probably insignificant.  In no way am I trying to justify or excuse foul behavior, but I do know from experience that it’s best to at least try to let cooler heads prevail.  Acting on impulse is what causes abusive situations to begin with.

So, no, I don’t think we should be rushing to crucify anyone.

There was talk on the radio here in New York about whether Chris Brown’s music should be banned from rotation.  Let’s be very clear:  The answer to that question is a resounding no.  If TI could be convicted of buying machine guns and still have his music played all day, the radio station should frankly be embarrassed that they’d even bring up the possibility of banning someone for being accused of being involved in a domestic dispute.

This is a very serious issue, and I’m glad that people are expressing concern.  Let’s just try to approach these situations with maturity and not let emotions get the best of us.


POLL: Are texts as urgent as phone calls?

February 25, 2009

This caught so much traction on Facebook and MySpace that I had to introduce it here.  We’re going to settle this argument once and for all through the poll that you will find on the right side of this page.*  Now, everyone seems to agree that circumstances will impact the respective urgency levels, but we’re voting on “IN GENERAL” which one is more urgent.  If this poll is successful, I can see it becoming a regular feature on the site.

FINAL POLL RESULTS:

Texts are more urgent 6%
Texts are less urgent 71%
Same urgency 24%

Here’s the background.  Feel free to add your own comments below:

Let me preface this by admitting I don’t like talking on the phone most of the time and would usually prefer to text. But I still don’t believe a text message is on the same level as a phone call when it comes to urgency. For one, if I’m doing something (like SLEEPING), the text isn’t going to interrupt me. A phone call will. I can answer the text at my earliest convenience, but have to either pick up the phone when it’s ringing or miss the call. Therefore, I see the text as less urgent than a phone call, and only slightly more urgent than an email.  Isn’t that how it goes?

This started because I texted both Timid and EJ at 8 AM this morning with a marketing idea that had just popped into my head for Family Business. EJ responded right away saying he liked the idea, and Timid IMed me hours later to complain about my etiquette.

Timid (11:12:47 AM): wtf are you doing up at 8 fucking AM texting me when i’m trying to sleep damn ‘tard
Pizon (11:13:14 AM): texts should never wake you up, that’s your bad
Pizon (11:13:21 AM): they’re supposed to be read when you wake up
Timid (11:13:31 AM): that’s emails byatch
Pizon (11:13:55 AM): same shit, texts are mini emails
Timid (11:16:59 AM): except i dont have to pay for emails punk
Pizon (11:17:19 AM): haha that has nothing to do with time of day
Timid (11:17:37 AM): it does when it’s 8 am and i’m not going to act on it, so it can wait
Timid (11:17:41 AM): text is urgent right now shit
Pizon (11:18:33 AM): subscribing to that theory is buying into the phone call = text culture
Pizon (11:18:48 AM): if it was mad urgent a call would be more appropriate
Timid (11:19:07 AM): yup and if it was you should have
Timid (11:19:26 AM): text are for when it’s too damn loud to hear via phone call and it’s right now shit
Timid (11:19:48 AM): like “hey mother fucker we are outside of SOB’s let us the fuck in”
Timid (11:19:54 AM): that’s a text message
Pizon (11:20:32 AM): in a world where everyone has Blackberries and iPhones, a text is only slightly more urgent than an email
Pizon (11:20:51 AM): but they’re basically on the same level, for most purposes
Timid (11:21:42 AM): yea but one is free and one isn’t
Pizon (11:21:47 AM): the length of the message has more to do with it than the urgency.. if it’s a sentence or so, it’s gonna be a text
Timid (11:21:50 AM): so email byatch
Pizon (11:22:08 AM): the price is another issue… I think most people have free texts now though right?
Timid (11:22:57 AM): i only have 200 free text messages
Pizon (11:24:52 AM): I don’t think EJ checks his email often, so I’d have to send you an email and him a text.
lol
Timid (11:25:30 AM): and texts wake me up
Pizon (11:25:48 AM): email and text should both make a noise, they do on my phone
Timid (11:26:13 AM): nope, i turned mine off so i dont get notified when emails come in

* The poll is now closed.


FamTV Becomes Mogulus Verified Channel

February 23, 2009

We’re proud to announce that FamTV has officially become a Mogulus verified channel.  FamTV is the 24/7 online video network launched by The Fam’s Pizon, Timid, and EJ that broadcasts footage from the group’s events, music videos, behind the scenes coverage, and more.  It also contains an on-demand service that allows viewers to access featured content at their convenience.  In addition, the FamTV chat room has been used to host weekly and impromptu chats between fans and members of the group.  FamTV will begin airing live broadcasts in the near future.

As a Mogulus verified channel, FamTV is now able to stream to unlimited concurrent viewers.  It is also now listed in the Mogulus Channel Guide and eligible for promotion throughout the Mogulus Network.  This means that FamTV will be carried to more viewers and will enjoy more visibility than ever before.

To watch FamTV anytime, go to www.mogulus.com/famtv.  FamTV can also be accessed via this site, or The Fam’s MySpace pages.


The Family Business Cheat Sheet

February 19, 2009

With the release of Family Business rapidly approaching (and let me assure you that the involuntary pushback will have been worth the wait), I thought I’d provide y’all with a “cheat sheet” of sorts for the album. 

Warning:  These could be considered spoilers, so if you want to make these deductions on your own you might not want to read this until after you have the record.

Much like with I Am Hip Hop, the goal was to assemble a cohesive project from start to finish as opposed to a collection of random tracks.  Some of the cuts that were on the mixtape did not make the album for the sole reason that they did not fit into the general storyline.  I wouldn’t really call Family Business a “concept album” in that it doesn’t follow a strict narrative, but there are definitely underlying themes that keep showing up, and the album is sequenced in such a way that there is a story to be told from track to track.  On my first album, karma was the focus.  On Family Business, it’s all about dreams and nightmares (often represented by references to Hell).  I just typed up a partial list of these references throughout the album, including abstract concepts in the subject matter, direct lyrical references, and imagery in the actual song titles, but I thought that was giving too much away.  With this concept in mind, you should be able to catch most of it on your own.

The other point to remember is that the “characters” on the album (and I put that in quotes because they’re really just us at various stages) and their perspectives are constantly being shaped by the events that are being described.  You’ll get more from each song if you listen with an appreciation of what happened in the previous songs.  With that being said, even if you didn’t realize any of this, and just listened to each song as its own standalone record, you wouldn’t know you were missing anything.  In my opinion, that’s the beauty of a good album.  The songs build on each other and are connected by common themes, but they also hold up individually.  If you don’t want to think about cryptic meanings on an album and just want to jam a dope record, this album is perfect for that too.  I’ve said it before, but sonically, musically, and lyrically, this album is by far the best work of my career — as well as Timid’s and EJ’s.

They say great artists don’t reveal too much and let their creations speak for themselves, so I won’t go any further.  I just hope you’re as excited as I am that Family Business, an album that is now over two years in the making, is finally coming out.  We plan to have the cover art, track list, and release date revealed very shortly.


Pizon Interview + Performance on The Couch

February 13, 2009
Vodpod videos no longer available.

This was during the media blitz around the period when I Am Hip Hop was first released in late 2006. The Media Factory Show is a local variety show that airs on cable television in Connecticut, and “The Couch” is its late night talk show-modeled interview and performance segment. Pizon’s appearance begins at 12:48.

Open separate window to view in bigger size.


Rejected Super Bowl ad

February 8, 2009

Obviously, people are outraged by this ad.  Everyone I’ve spoken to has expressed anger at the church for producing this horrible commercial and trying to get it aired.  I personally don’t think it’s that bad in principle:  it’s really more pro-life than it is anti-choice, and I will always defend free speech.  What’s most bothersome to me is that watching this ad gives one the impression that the church supported President Obama from the beginning, when the church was actually one of his biggest detractors.  Now that he’s in office, we’re supposed to forget that they were on the wrong side of history?  Newsflash:  If you wanted someone to lose, trying to profit off that person’s victory makes you look like an asshole.  It’s this kind of hyprocisy and underhandedness that turns so many people off to religion to begin with.  Now, if they ran a spot about a fetus that would grow up a prick who cheated on his wife and used his mistress’ beer money to carpetbag his way to a congressional seat before eventually winning the Republican party’s nomination for president, they’d be fine.

If you didn’t know, I’m Catholic.  If I’m harsh on the church, it’s because I’m disappointed in it.  Shortly after the election, I was looking for a Catholic church to attend in Alexandria, Virginia.  On one of the local church’s Web sites, they were encouraging parisioners to write into Obama’s office and protest his plan to sign what they deemed a bill that “promoted abortion” into legislation.  No such pro-abortion bill existed.  Claiming a bill that supports women’s rights promotes abortion is as disingenuous as suggesting pro-life legislation promotes unwanted children.  Most people, regardless of political affiliation, do not favor abortion — but it’s disheartening when people fail to recognize the complexity of the issue.

Here’s something to think about.  As of two years ago, there were an estimated one million Iraqi casualties in the Iraq War.  Surely, that number is significantly higher now.  With approximately 25 million people in Iraq in 2003, that equates to over 4% of that country’s population dead.  And that only counts people we all agree were human beings; it doesn’t include the unborn babies of slain pregnant women, which increases the death toll even more if you’re religious.  Does this qualify as genocide yet?  Every time I attend mass, we’re asked to pray for the wars to end.  This war in particular is one the entire world believes unjust.  So if you’re the church, why not encourage your parisioners to thank President Obama for vowing to pull our troops out of Iraq instead of keeping the killing machine in place for an additional 100 years?  That would mean more than the feigned support demonstrated in the rejected ad designed to scare people into following a political agenda adverse to what they voted for.

I have a feeling this is exactly why the founding fathers called for a separation of church and state.  Religion and politics just don’t mix.