Animal Farm

Animal Farm

Animal Farm by Professor A.L.I.

George Orwell’s seminal text, is an allegory that remains as pertinent to our status quo, as it was in the time he penned it.  Orwell intended his eponymous farm to be symbolic, and in interviews, spoke to his intention to speak to the Russian Revolution through his novel.  The story explores the tensions of the worker through the lens of animals, and the role of the ruling class through a farmer’s tyranny.  Sadly, this very dialectic and tension is exacerbated now, and the past ten years have seen movements from Occupy Wallstreet, to economic tensions leading to extreme polarization that brought about the elections of Trump, Brexit and nearly wrought France under the leadership of Le Pen.  Those on the bottom, exemplified by the domesticated beasts in the text, are the people, and it is to this population I wanted to speak to, and address the very realistic tensions that we face in this day and age.

For this reason, I remixed and re-released Animal Farm, to pay homage to this text, and to the tensions we face currently—and combined with the beautiful cover art by Adam Hunter Peck, hope to draw attention to the core message—that change is needed.

Early in the song, I state: “The battle of righteous souls, versus those sick, like a war in Benghazi, the blood of Qaddafi…” referring to a tension I notice daily on my social media timeline, which seems to between principled people and a polarizing media programming.  Global events are spun to be about one thing, when in truth, they are motivated by the same base desires as the farmer in the Orwellian framing, which is an insatiable desire for profit, or greed.

Later, I talk about how this tension, leads to coalition building by those who are divested, and are seeking change.  This group has symbolic leadership, which I speak to with the lines, “I carry Malcolm’s martyrdom, like Yuri Kochiyama,” and further emphasize this with the lines “I’m Caeser with Montablan, Conquest, part five,” which invokes the classic Planet of the Apes film where the Apes rebel and takeover. The idea of a revolution, is change, and when one is seemingly imprisoned by economics, or by politics, breaking free is a part of that change.  This is why I say, “like an ambulance Assata used to escape from prison, I seek a vehicle like Hagar’s quest for a vision.”

Escape from a practical system of economic servitude that the masses participate in is the whole, point, which brings us to the hook: “this world we live upon, is an animal farm; choose to be livestock, or choose to be armed; raise the alarm, like these Beasts of England; because their feast’s beginning, with our children.”

That chorus needs no explanation, as it invokes Animal Farm, the text, specifically—even referencing the song “Beasts of England,” which is the revolutionary song the animals in the book sing as they takeover.  I further elaborate the point, about oppression and tyranny with the lines, “we are the Injuns that feed their engine, brown spots in their field of vision; like colors in prisms, light division, sufficient, yet white imprisons; in missions, hacienda’s, (migrant) farms and plantations; globalization, this life is leased to own by corporations.”

It is truly a tension between corporations and people, where the people are beasts of burden, and in this framing, they are destined to come together as a result, since they are all being victimized.  Thus, the lines, “red; yellow, brown and black, given cancer and heart attacks; alcohol & cigarette packs, secret police, infrared tags; on minarets, prayer halls, even ten Gurus on the walls; doesn’t matter as long, as beard is long, silent prayer calls; whether in turban or veiled by curtain, were just beasts of burden.”

I hope this piece, helps spark that coalition building of all oppressed people, so we cease to be beasts of burden, and help usher in a better world together.

Peace.

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#FreeZakzaky

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He may be alive, but if he ever emerges from his unknown cell, what will Zakzaky emerge to?  His six sons murdered, his wife tortured and most likely dead as well and a broken community hundreds dead, while worshipping–and yet a human being of his conviction, who calmly spoke on the phone as his house was being bombed may emerge like Zaynab, the granddaughter of the Prophet Muhammad, did from her dungeon in Damascus, after being brutalized and watching her sons and remaining family slain, tortured and beheaded only to eloquently stand before the usurping caliph Yazeed (the ideological father of the Wahhabist thought that birthed ISIS and Boko Haram), and speak truth to power.

The preceding music video is dedicated to Sheikh Zakzaky, his followers and his family from an American educator and artist who has long admired his attempt to reform Islam in a region where it has been hijacked by the Wahhabist interests of Boko Haram and its ilk.  Feel free to download the song at the link below:

Read more about Zakzaky and the Zaria Massacre here.

Sheikh Zakzaky, though we have never met, you are in my prayers and I dedicated this piece to you and pray that you will be free soon.

–Professor A.L.I.

Hip-Hoponomics & Rapitalism

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Hip-Hoponomics & Rapitalism

By Professor A.L.I.

The Wu Tang Clan helped popularize the acronym C.R.E.A.M., meaning, “Cash Rules Everything Around Me”, and perhaps a more appropriate phrase summarizing what some would call the “rap game” has never been spoken. Hip-Hop as a ‘kulture’ began in response to the simple fact that the doors to mainstream forms of entertainment were closed and so “the people” sought alternative routes. The barrier before them was socio-economic in nature and the forums that arose, they created to serve those for whom the traditional doors would not open. Those who were weaving this ‘kulture’ together presented a form of communal economic resistance to the norms established by the mainstream. The community center at Sedgewick Avenue, block parties, and gatherings in abandoned lots were an affront to the clubs and established entertainment centers; and as Hip-Hop grew, this new venue/paradigm shift began to transform into an economically viable one in its own right. Cash did indeed rule, and it began to become a growing factor in the dissemination of this ‘kulture’.

As money mixed with the music, it enforced a pimping dynamic upon the progenitors of this ‘kulture’, exacerbated existing social inequities, seeded and exploited division and violence for profit and finally exported real Hip-Hop ‘kulture’ overseas while a minute sliver of original Hip-Hop ‘kulture’ remained alive in independent artistry. Rapitalism is a unit in my Hip-Hop History course, and also describes a quartet of songs on the XFactor album in which Hip-Hop Economics is the central theme (King Solomon’s Mines feat. Kam, Hip-Hoponomics feat. Chino XL, Beef Stew feat. Canibus, and Pimperialism).

Part I: Historic Overview of the Development of Rapitalism

Capitalism is defined as an economic system in which trade and/or industry is operated for profit. Rapitalism is a term that I am using to describe a historical process in which the kultural expressions of Hip-Hop started to be operated solely for predatory profit and as the system took hold, Hip-Hop would cease to exist in its original form, which was founded in opposition to the closed doors of the status quo’s economic structures. Hip-Hop, and specifically the expression of music, in a period from 1971 to 1979, started to become recognized as salient product worthy of monetary exchange. This was the first phase of Rapitalism.

This initial phase inserted a wholly new motive to the lyricism and deejaying that helped produce music and the intention for production began to shift to create something economically viable. In the initial stages it was to produce something for the local community. This was a time that small businesses like Winley Records or Sylvia Robinson’s Sugarhill started to make money and cut or create a new market share in music sales in urban markets. This attracted commercial interests and radio play that went beyond a DJ Hollywood spinning records Uptown or Mr. Magic’s late night/early morning show. This created Mr. Magic’s Rap Attack and it led to the creation of records like Afrika Bambaata’s Soulsonic Force and the Sugarhill Gang’s hit “Rapper’s Delight”.

As the music became commercial and its appeal grew, it was in the economic interests of small businesses, and then larger corporations to market it to larger more economically viable audiences. In the process, it was increasingly important for these corporations to make sure that the content that was produced would have the widest appeal.

Rapitalism is therefore the commodification of an art form, which includes a process to divest it of a localized message in order to make sure it has a wide appeal. The effect of Rapitalism on the community is also one that it provides inurement to local artists that it should then build these communities up, however confronted with the realities of living in economically and socially disenfranchised spaces, these artists leave. Whether this is caused by the threat of living in a space while a hyperbolic illusion of wealth is perpetrated into the media and thereby where one lives, or whether the process of producing this economically viable product lures these artists out of their communities outright, the end result is the same, which is one of divestment.

Finally, the entire process was modeled on the same economic relationship as was prevalent in urban centers in the United States in the 1970’s, that of the pimp. Record companies, who themselves were often subsidiaries of larger corporations, began to pimp artists and their material for profit. Often times these relationships led to the artist being left with very little, not even their own intellectual property, and the record labels became rich. Even the early demise of an artist did not lead to a loss of profit because of the ownership of intellectual property and in some instances even created more profit; furthermore if an artist died, there was so much available in hungry talent in the inner-city that it did not matter.

Part II. The Rise of Pimperialism

Pimperialism is a term coined by me to describe a process that is akin to imperialism, which is the policy of extending a nation-state’s power/influence through diplomacy or military force. The word pimperialism is imagined to mean the process by which an individual or a corporate entity extends their power/influence over other human beings through manipulation or force, for the purpose of economic exploitation. It is no accident that the word contains within it the term ‘pimp’, for a pimp’s ultimate goal is to use their power/influence in order to control other human beings in order to inure economic benefit through their exploitation.

Pimperialism has three parts and the first examines the concept of “pimping” in its most essentially brutal form. This is a historic analysis and does not indulge in the argument that the word has been reclaimed, since it still retains the original definition alongside other vernacular interpretations. So the first verse of the song opens with etymology and history: “the etymology of pimp, origin: Middle French: a scoundrel to be lynched, a wimp, and a snitch; In Swahili in the sixties, its impimpsi: insensitivity to a symphony of sins (see); simply dollar signs, ignore greater signs, the science behind the mind, slaves to life of crime…” The verse goes on to describe the process of dehumanizing another in order to make profit off of their suffering. This is essentially the occupation of a pimp, but it doesn’t describe being a pimp in the context of the global realities that created the position in the first place. The hook, further elaborates on the meaning and begins to foreshadow how the term begins to transition into one used to describe a figure or object to be admired stating “to be pimp is to floss, but its a façade; a definition that was born of pimpin’ Hip-Hop. To pimp, is to signify materialism, but they pimp your material, that’s Pimperialism.”

Pimperialism is ultimately a method of programming, in which the subject begins to relate to the oppressor and the oppression and begins to use language and methods that repeat the same level of oppression in order to achieve perceived social mobility; so to argue that it could be construed as having been produced by a Stockholm-esque Syndrome, is not, in my mind far from the truth. The second verse continues to delve into the historical context and uses Iceberg Slim’s text Pimp for lyrical fuel, analyzing the motivations of the characters as well as the context that Slim so masterfully weaves into his autobiographical tale stating, “So peep this allegory, its Sweet’s (referring to a Master Pimp in the story) rundown: ocelot on his lap, royalty uncrowned. He spits truth to an Iceberg, about pimpin’, in this white man’s world; he claimed to have flipped it. “The black woman’s raped already, since slavery, they oversee: pimpin’ your whole family tree, supposebly free, one step from being hung on a tree, learn they’re methods, get a pimpin’ degree and charge a fee. So we can be, where we ought to be; Slim dreams: he’s rich, beating women, till his momma screams.” This verse traces the arch lessons behind pimping, taught to Slim, and juxtaposes it with the cost it bears on his psyche, but underlying it all is that pimping is a learned occupation in the black community and has antebellum origins.

Pimping, is as old a profession, I imagine as prostitution—however the argument that modern pimping, is derived in its urban application from practices born during chattel slavery finds its roots in the way captives or slaves where broken and how slave masters profited off of their suffering.

This context is crucial in order to understand the third verse and ultimately the core argument of this lyrical essay. Quoting from Ralph Ellison’s Battle Royale, which would later become chapter two of his seminal work Invisible Man in alternating lines of this Pimperialism verse, contrasting with the imagery of Hip-Hop’s relationship with the music industry it becomes abundantly clear that Ellison’s formula for the dehumanization of the black man for the entertainment of whites, describes pimping in its essential form, and this formula is the precise blueprint for how Hip-Hop, like Rock, Blues and Jazz, was pimped by corporations for profit—essentially profiting off of the suffering of black artists, who create art, only for it to be taken from them, so that the pimp can profit. “An invisible man, a man of substance, flesh and bone, Hip-Hop was sub-altern, till that Sugarhill song. A scholarship awaits him, at a white mans club. Hip-Hop got into clubs, based off its buzz. First they objectify a woman, sexualize her form. Hip-Hop video vixens, and pimpin’ verses are born. They make him fight his brothers, physical display. Beef between artists, (the) Labels still get paid. They throw counterfeit currency on a carpet, targets, contracts promise, but leave nothing for the artist. Electrified, they shriek, fried, they ask him to speak, left weak, Hip-Hop, became pop in defeat.” The song ends in the grand irony of the word pimp becoming a term to aspire to within the Hip-Hop genre and in urban communities. Beyond the imagery of Ice-T or Schooly D verses, the term pimp in Hip-Hop slowly became one not of exploitation but of endearment and just like the blackexploitation films of the 1970’s, was so visually hyperbolic, that the pimp became an almost superhero or mythic figure. Imagine that, a superhero whose superpower was his (since the term is essentially paternalistic) ability to exploit his own people economically—see Jay Z’s Big Pimpin’ as an example and search his life and relationship with Def Jam for the irony.

Coming soon:

Part III: King Solomon’s Mines: The Wealth of Knowledge of Self 

Part IV: Preparing Beef Stew: Low Intensity Exploitation and Economics

Part V: Summarizing Hip-Hoponomics with Chino XL

Asiatics and the Knowledge Resurrection

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#HipHopEd

Above all else, I am in-equivocally an Asiatic Black Man.  Dravidian (Tamil) & West Indian narratives from my paternal and maternal respectively, coupled with a National Geographic DNA test that shows markers that link me with my brethren from Papua New Guinea, the Aboriginal human being from Australia & Tasmania, the Andamanese and other Dravidians and ultimately East Africa.  Along with the rest of my global black community, I am what the Honorable Elijah Muhammad would have called an “Original Man”.

Sharing this narrative was important for me to do for two important reasons.  First, it’s important to establish the motivation behind my weaving of this narrative into the oral storytelling of the song “Asiatics” featuring Planet Asia and understanding that it comes from a space of authenticity.  The second is to understand that the piece and the idea behind Asiatics its ultimately engaging in knowledge resurrection, knowing, in Foucaultian fashion that knowledge is everywhere and is layered, and that what we see is merely that which is erudite and accepted by the current systems of power and therefore cannot be a universal truth and can be, at best, one interpretation.

The knowledge I speak of, is that of “origin”.  Where do we originate from?  Why does our shared knowledge point us towards Europe, Athens or Rome then to the Crusades and the Renaissance, Empire, Colonialism and Global Conflict as defining settings for the narrative that answers that question–in spite of the insurmountable evidence of our African origins, of Black Athena, of the African wealth that fueled Rome, and the whitening of Jesus after the Crusades and the Renaissance, of the wealth of Africa that empowered the West and continues to… I mean is that coltan in the phone or tablet you are using to read this on?  Asiatics, therefore questions the accepted narrative and postulates that true knowledge, i.e. knowledge of self, that comes through deep inquiry and digging beyond erudite systems of information reveals a broader, more universal truth.

The irony is that this argument is put forth through Hip-Hop, an artform that reaches back into a method of preserving narratives in the shadows–such as the various oral traditions that ultimately come together in the Bronx, N.Y. in 1972 coalescing into a paradigm shift, essentially forming a new intelligent movement–a “hip” “hop”, which initially, before being co-opted for the most part, preserved the narratives that were discarded by the status quo and protected the truth brought to the surface by scholars like Frantz Fanon & Stokeley Carmichael, leaders like Malcolm X and Kwame Nkrumah and by activists like Assata Shakur and Fred Hampton.  Hip-Hop took that truth and retold it, keeping it alive, while crack & heroin flooded the urban community and Blackexploitation manipulated the image of Blackness, so recently rediscovered into one akin to the Jim Crow narrative–ultimately creating a new psyche, one which again re-oriented the Black Human towards Europe and Eurocentric framings.

This is why I reached out to Planet Asia, an artist who has been dedicated to the preservation of HIp-Hop as intelligent movement, in spite of corporate pressure to shift it into something devoid of intelligence altogether.  Planet Asia is an artist I’ve admired and as a fellow West Coast Muslim M.C., it felt appropriate and two years ago we put together a project that spoke to the youth in an African-American Literature course I was teaching at the summer at U.C. Berkeley.  It was almost as if Planet Asia was guest lecturing for the project and the song Asiatics was born from it, a remix of the original joint that created a back-and-forth conversation that conveyed the message that truth lay underneath the surface and that knowledge was key.

This is Foucaultian, Intelligent Movement to the fullest, this is in the words of my sister, Aisha Fukushima, “Raptivism” of the mind–it is Hip-Hop to the core and moreover it is Hip-Hop-Ed… a genre that was created because they have hijacked Hip-Hop with the likes of Iggy and Drake…

P.E.A.C.E.

A.L.I.

Taking The Next Generation To School; Professor A.L.I.’s Innovative Hip-Hop Curriculum, Is The First Of Its Kind

The X in “XFactor” pays homage to the personage and legacy of Malcolm X, while invoking the idea of the “unknown variable”.  The goal of the curricular album is to invite the listener to discover what that variable is in reference to Hip-Hop. 

1/06/2015 (BERKELEY, CA) – U.C. Berkeley and U.C. Davis Law School alumnus, Moorish Hip-Hop artist and educator, Professor A.L.I. has shifted the paradigm of how music can be used in the high school classroom.  His “XFactor” double length album is integrated as part of a unique Hip-Hop history curriculum offered this spring at The Athenian School in Danville, College Preparatory School in Oakland., The Urban School and Lick Wilmerding in San Francisco, and Marin Academy and the course is being offered for U.C. approved history credit.

Professor A.L.I. states the idea of merging Hip-Hop and Education to enhance curriculum was born in his mind in a Native American Law class offered at U.C. Davis and taught by Professor Arturo Gandara.  He stated that while at U.C. Davis, “Professor Gandara would allow me to submit verses or raps instead of essays for my weekly reflections based on our case readings.  He would offer feedback and appreciated the level of depth of my lyrics and often asked me to open class by rapping—which added so much depth to our overall discussion.”

The “Xfactor” album delves into Hip-Hop’s history and discusses its future and does not shy away from sensitive topics like misogyny, racism and homophobia, instead Professor A.L.I. tackles them head-on—showcasing a profound understanding for the role played by Hip-Hop and using it as a lens to initiate this study.

The course is unique, in that it teaches history from a thematic perspective, weaving in the expanse of oral histories in West Africa, the Middle Passage, the Abolitionist Movement, The Jim Crow South, The Civil Rights Movement, Colonialism/Post-Colonial realities and modern day social dynamics in the urban community.  Hip-Hop in essence becomes the thread by which all these historical events are studied and students are invited to respond to the units by writing and recording their own raps to the same instrumentals that Professor A.L.I. uses in the “XFactor.”

“Nothing like it is out there—believe me, I’ve looked.  While academics have written Hip-Hop pedagogies, and there are courses offered at the University level, no one has thought about bringing it to this type of education to the high school level nor offering it as a robust curriculum at that.  While some innovative unit plans exist that weave in Hip-Hop in literature curricula, never before has an instructor stepped so firmly into the space of authenticity that Hip-Hop itself demands and record an album in order to advance the curricular and pedagogical objectives of a course—and this is why I was so inspired to be the first,”  stated Professor A.L.I. anticipating this January 6th, album release date.

An example of the fiery lyrical content can be taken from the eponymous track “XFactor”, which takes a jab at the controversial cover image choices made by Nicki Minaj last year that was disrespectful to the personage and legacy of Malcolm X.  The Professor then takes us through a truly eXistential view of history while explaining who Malcolm was to Hip-Hop, “He’s placenta to Hip-Hop’s birth, so discarded, yet his knowledge provided nutrition for these artists.”

The album features guest vocals from long standing Professor A.L.I. collaborators in Raekwon of the Wu Tang ClanPlanet AsiaBlitz the AmbassadorSadat X of Brand NubianDead Prez, and Canibus and as well includes, in two parts as interludes, a never before heard, full length interview conducted by Professor A.L.I. with his late friend Malcolm Shabazz before he was murdered in Mexico City in 2013.

#HipHopEd

Class Is Back In Session – DAS KA REBEL

 

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“The Professor is back! A.L.I. has released another album packed with brilliant lyrics and incisive social commentary. Wonderful.” — iTunes

www.professorali.com

SF BAY AREA, CALIFORNIA.  March 13, 2013.  Class is back in session on Professor A.L.I.’s Das Ka Rebel, an album that isn’t an album, but instead its lyrical curriculum.  Following up his work on the star-studded Carbon Cycle Diaries and Emerald Manifesto, Professor A.L.I. has met Hip-Hop at the intersection of education and has merged his lyrical content to match the socio-economics curriculum he teaches.  Das Ka Rebel featuring artists like Dead Prez, Prodigal Sunn and Chino XL; and the album will be a part of an innovative summer lit course taught at U.C. Berkeley by Professor A.L.I. himself.

Professor A.L.I. skillfully uses wordplay to point out the predatory economic systems that take advantage of our youth.  In ‘Wordsmyths’ the Professor critiques religious institutions and how they play off of the faith of their parishioners to gain economic benefits.  On ‘PenmanshipProfessor A.L.I. uses the allusion of the pen, which can refer to both a writing instrument or to the penal institution, to critique society and how both meanings play off of each other; how not utilizing the pen can increase ones chances of ending up in the Pen.

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The album is not without controversy.  The Professor draws inspiration from a chance summer meeting with Basketball Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas for the ‘Book of Isiah’ a song which tells the story of three Bay Area basketball legends, who highlight the problematic and predatory nature of NCAA Basketball, where colleges make money off of players without truly investing in their education.  Isiah loved the track and found it captures the essence of the problems facing inner-city youth within athletics.

The album also features stellar work by West Coast M.C.’s Planet Asia, T-KASH and Kam, who seem due to the heavy lyrical content to be more like guest lecturers than traditional album features.  Planet Asia encourages youth to stay in school, while Kam helps Professor A.L.I. deliver the message of how Hip-Hop has been co-opted by corporate interests and independent artistry is besieged as well.  Das Ka Rebel is a unique album and has already received great critical review by local, alternative and college radio stations.  It will be a part of U.C. summer curriculum and reviewed by independent Hip-Hop magazines as well as regional media.

For more information or to contact Professor A.L.I. for promo requests or to set up an interview, please contact Black Steven at blacksteven@blacksteven.comwww.professorali.com.