Page 1

Fighting Obstacles Knowing Ultimate Success

December 2004


Fighting Obstacles Knowing Ultimate Success For ... By ... IN ... The Student We Trust

Fighting Obstacles Knowing Ultimate Success

December 2004

" Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.� ~Red Auerbach



[ COVER ART] Phillip Simpson [ MIND THOUGHT] .......................................1 Prime [ FUNKY FRESH ] ...........................................2 (Our)Selves [ POETICS ] ......................................................2 A Soul train Of thoughts Biological Politk The Genius [ UNDER THE NEEDLE ]...............................3 Chris Rob K-OS [ VERBATIM ]..................................................4 Alan Ket John Legend Sharief [ BRAIN FOOD ].............................................10 Salvage Art Purple Hibiscus [ FLICKS ]........................................................11 Legend Stop Making Sense

F.O.K.U.S. was started the summer of 2003 by Alma Davila-Toro, Atiba Edwards and Allison Lasky because there was a lack of a community for artists of all disciplines that constantly strove to expose the student artists and also expose students to the various art forms.

November 19th: a star touched down on this campus at approximately 9:25am (at least that was the time Soul and I went to get him from the airport). John Legend has been involved in music for years and is finally getting the recognition that is due. To commemorate the show this issue is mainly spotlighting music but it has other things sprinkled throughout. We were way ahead of the curve and scheduled John Legend to come to campus and give a performance that this town has not seen in years. The event was designed to give 6 different sets of students a chance to showcase their talents to over 600 people- a major purpose of FOKUS. The show started late due to some technical difficulties but it still was a great show. On behalf of FOKUS, I would like to thank those of you who stayed and those of you who left. That was the second notch in our belt and there is more in store, so Get FOKUSed! Either you are with us in the movement or witnessing the movement. ~ Prime

[ COVER ART ] Phillip Simpson is the one to credit for the cover. It is a picture from his People series and the subject is Musiq Soulchild. Phil has an assortment of ideas that are each very unique. Look for more work from him soon but since you are itching to see more from him sooner rather than later you can go and check more samples at .

Fighting Obstacles Knowing Ultimate Success

[ FUNKY FRESH ] (Our)SELVES is the name of an upcoming art exhibition that will have its grand opening on December 10th at WORK [the art gallery on South State near Liberty]. The three artists, James Arndt, Mary Paul and Emily Squires, will be “sharing their voices through a range of visual media. This ensemble of work represents how we choose to experience our visual lives in this moment, an expressive articulation of how we identify ourselves.”

[ POETICS ] a [soul] train of thoughts Thoughts of an infamous struggle RISE into my mind As I rely To undermine A strong reality of truth within due time

I Take under youth The reality of it all When someone falls NO helpin hands to pick US up So all we do is basically crawl Into the wisdom and faith of GOD Usin a rod to stay up top Cause da bullets just keep flyin And WE really don’t wanna get SHOT! Or stop…. Tryin to fear their impartial engagements

That hand under arraignment

While that dude down low gets DEATH As his only payment Let me know Tho insane I entertain with a WISE mind Which is the main source that I contain While a homeless man sits there Alone in the rain Try and convince But don’t get pissed I insist That many mindz are as hard as rocks But let them listen to da melodies IN HIP-HOP And a place of positive wonders Is where they’ll shop.

December 2004 Biological Politik ~Lev Grossman-Spivack

Stories round in circles run like cyclones spin indifference wins with disrespected viens pumpin' healthy blue blood turned into sludge. Drudgery flipped into mud the earth disperses rhymes metabolic metaphoric I play with words like nuetrons play with space. I reflect language like sun rays off pond waves my flav you can't touch but neither can I, it comes from deeper inside. Words gettin' strangled, occupied brains goin' insane without viens pumpin' oxygen, eatin' up by flames. Always just the same, see-through, transparent, unaware-of-it, my heart's in dispair with this wear and tear Goodyear, badyear, sadyear, madyear, tap into your hardwear. My inconsistent pen drips wet like pussy lips try to arouse me, slice open trees that reside inside of me. I slap words on canvas like pollack dances with samples of temperamental on the edge of a cliff, but not just any cliff, but my cliff of insanity, the boy in me, screamin' to play in nonsensical ramble on to roads not traveled on, are there any left? or have those roads been trampled on, and new fresh footsteps must lay rest the question of whether cowboys still exist. Backpackin' with stacks of masks, coverin' hidden dreams, riped open down the seam, gleamin' so bright, its fright-full at first, but when it bursts the light breaks through...squinted eyes don't understand such energy through the Henessey of drunk drudgery of life's troubled falacies. My abnormaility is purely me when I am free. I push that pen to limits never envisioned in ink. The blink of my eye is my alliby, my story why, my why ask why, I'll tell you why, before I die I want to fly over waves, surf on sidewalks paved with paragraphs of new facts,

Fighting Obstacles Knowing Ultimate Success smackin' lips lucious drippin' dipped with true prophecy… the only word to listen to when the return to the two and four the one and three the downbeat simply-stated is replayed back in the day when I could just spray, loud, say outloud, yellout loud, words, verbs, phrased, analog, don't make sense, make up word, schitzophrenic, spell it backwards, who knows who's superb? You Grammy-award winning singing begging outside on street corners for ties and shirts to fill your cup with metal coins so you can survive on store 24 cans of artificial unintelligent. I can't handle it, my only outlet, out of this sparkplug of backward energy into a clear looking glass of sanity is the silence of single syllable see clearly principles of miniscule maddening language hammering like founding fathers carved into cliffs like pagan rituals called nationalism. I pray to you greenbacked giants standing on slave-shipped slave-whipped back-broken hands-tied song-muted economy-fuelin' free-labor from the ground-up. The blue and white are soaked in a red so guilty it stains my memory. I see through textbook stories into crystal balls of truth so scary they seem like tales told by fairies. Once upon a time I heard the first rhyme, it started with the beat blood-pumpin' pistol-whipping swift-script pulsepacked with energy connected to my artery. I could finally see like a prodigy. I felt the box beatin' off walls, sound proof that I was still around laughin' like a clown cause I had found the original sound…spillin' out my mouth. I turn beats into music like I was usin' it to fuel it, yes the next evolution the sound wave contusion the fusion of membrane contained within the realm of consciousness. I'm launchin' this, yes, fieldgoal kickin' quarterback to stackin' lyrics on my back I flip that track and watch you scratch cross blackboards full of stolen facts, maxed out credit cards devourin' family round table discussions

December 2004

rushin' out the house before legs know where to walk so massin' flock like sheep to beanstalks growin' unseen atop mountains contained in dreams. The dream-makin' machine stops makin' dreams when alarm clock homicidal strikes at dawn. Subconscious thought subverted memory reflection eternally lookin' back at you like a wrinkle in time, waves washin' away passed mishaps second chances fallen romances cancer laced stanzas star spangled splattered green. At the table of green greed plots and schemes… when is this round time bomb gonna go off? Tick tock. beam me up Spock. drop off. stop.

The Genius ~Atiba Edwards

Throughout days and nights The blind man leads Fingers speaking away

[ UNDER THE NEEDLE ] Chris Rob The Official Bootleg of Chris Rob, Volume I 15 / 20 Now Playing Chris Rob set out with the mission to bring peace of mind and unity to his listeners while they ride to his groove and this first release does just that. From the start you realize that this is going to be a soothing ride. Listeners witness his talent on seven original tracks and live versions of two of these tracks. This album serves as a good introduction to Chris Rob. Check out for this album. ~Atiba Understanding the Numbers 0 / 20 – Waste of space, time and whatever it is on 5 / 20 – Tolerate once but anything more may hurt 10 / 20 – Average. Squinting may help somewhat 15 / 20 – Good. Not a solid picture but close 20 / 20 – Solid. Not enough faults to knock its picture

Fighting Obstacles Knowing Ultimate Success December 2004 was I executive produced the album and what K-OS that means is that I came and put all the Joyful Rebellion 15 / 20 Now Playing

T.Dot’s own K-OS returns with the follow-up to “Exit” and continues to show his versatility. There is no plain framed beat on this album instead you find melodies of rock, soul, hip-hop, reggae, funk, and jazz accompanied with rapping and singing. K-OS style is best described as an offspring of old-school. “B-Boy Stance,” the albums first single, is the anthem playing in the background as he attempts to take hip-hop back to its roots. "I [K-OS] guess the idea behind revolution or rebellion has always been a tragic one. So I wanted to associate happiness with being rebellious. I think that's kind of a revolutionary idea in itself." “Joyful Rebellion” is one of the most enjoyable albums to date. Its melodic mix of everything from the Vancouver String Orchestra to Bob Marley with a “Billie Jean” stop-over brings a fresh breath to music. ~Prime

[ VERBATIM ] .: Hip-Hop Culture In Cuba :. While working on my short documentary on hip-hop culture in Cuba, I had the opportunity to sit down with New Yorker Alan Ket, a major entrepreneur who is currently the VP of Marketing and Advertising for Azzure Denim and Indigo Red, was the Publisher and Editor in Chief of Stress Magazine, founder/VP of Complex Magazine, and founder of From Here to Fame publishing. We sat down on a Saturday afternoon this past Thanksgiving break to talk about hip-hop culture in Cuba and it went a lil sumthin like this:

FOKUS: Introduce yourself Ket: My name is Alan Ket and the work I did

with the Cuban Hip-Hop All-Stars record

players together. I met one of the people that was instrumental in putting the record together, which is a DJ and journalist in Cuba by the name of Ariel Fernandez Diaz – he goes by the name of DJ Afro in Cuba and he had the only hip-hop radio show in Cuba back then. When we met, he kicked the idea to me when I was in Cuba to do this record together and he had some great ideas and he wanted to make it happen and I was kickin it with him, building with him and the rest of the rappers in Cuba and then I told him that I was down and I was going to help him make it happen. I came back to the U.S. and kind of put all the pieces together to make it happen, getting the money together and getting financial partners to come up with it, and the support needed to do it. I went back and helped build the recording studio in Cuba for the producer, Pablo Herrerra, who is the producer on the record. We built the pre-production studio in his home, which involved taking keyboards and samplers and all kinds of stuff on trips to Cuba so he could make all the beats at his crib before going back and booking studio time and getting all that stuff going…and so that was my role…really just putting the pieces together and the players together to make sure it happened because I knew it was an important thing that needed to happen. FOKUS: What difference did you see with Cuba’s hip-hop scene compared to that in the United States? Ket: The difference between Cuba’s hip-hop scene and the American hip-hop scene…I mean, it’s a very different place. The music in itself…the rap music just coming out of Cuba…there’s all kinds of music…but it’s definitely more intelligent and more political…more politicized than the stuff that’s coming out of here [U.S.]. There’s definitely more of a connection to a struggle – to the revolution that’s going on in Cuba. There’s also more of a musical connection to their past than I found here and these are the rhythms and the rhymes and things like that. The big difference when I went over there was the energy, the passion, the humbleness, and the enthusiasm to make music – to be a part of hip-hop…to just understand it…the love for it and understand where it’s coming from…kind of like the way it might’ve been here in the 1980’s. Here in the

Fighting Obstacles Knowing Ultimate Success U.S. it’s very much a commercial entity. Hiphop/Rap…all of it…is really a commercial thing. Over there [Cuba] there is no commercial – you can’t even buy the music. You gotta go listen to it or you exchange tapes or things like that. Nothing is for sale so it just breathes a different kind of vibe and love for it. FOKUS: What challenges did you see in Cuba? Ket: The challenges that I saw in Cuba were that there were no resources or resources were really hard to come by. When I went out there, I met this guy, Pablo, who was this producer/musician and very connected in the scene, was working with groups, getting beats and stuff together for them, but he really didn’t have any production equipment, so it was very hard for him to get original music going. It was very simple – not very sophisticated and so to me the technology was very lacking out there – technology to create music and materials. If you wanna talk about graffiti or painting, there were a lack of materials, no spray paint or a lack of that stuff and just a lack of goods, of music, of reference – Cuba is very much starting their own scene, which is pretty much very indigenous to the island. You know things leak in, but it’s so random what leaks in – you don’t know what’s going to influence Cuban hip-hop. It can be Snoop Dogg because somebody came from the U.S. with Snoop Dogg cds and suddenly Snoop is impacting Cuban hip-hop and Cuban rap or it could be EDOG or it could be somebody even more obscure. It’s just whatever comes in…you know…and so to me the most astonishing thing was that they were moving – the progression was moving very fast, year to year, it was growing. I think from us going over there and trying to build this exchange between people here in the U.S. that were down with hip-hop and people over there that were down with hip-hop made the scene progress. In certain ways I think, to their credit, they had everything to do with that – we were just coming through and blessing them like “yo, here’s some equipment…here’s some inspiration and some friendships you can build with us.” But, I think those were the main things that were lacking over there that I noticed, but they made up for it in passion, determination, courage, and artistry. I mean people over there live differently, so a lot of people that wanted to make music really dedicated themselves to making music even though they’re very very very young and weren’t necessarily distracted

December 2004

from other things such as…I don’t know…a crappy job or dead end job and stuff like that. FOKUS: You spoke about one of the elements of hip-hop [graffiti] in Cuba…can you elaborate on that and talk about the scene on the island. Ket: It’s funny when you ask or just being asked about graffiti in Cuba. When I went to Cuba there was no graffiti that I can say. Like I was the only person doing graffiti in Cuba and I’ve gone there many times and I’ve bombed everywhere. I’ve done pieces and I’ve done throwups…I’ve taken tags like all over the place. I’ve walked everywhere and taken tags and stuff like that and every year I go back and I continue to paint things like that and I’ve brought in my own supplies and every time I go smuggling in paint or markers or whatever. I didn’t come across any Cuban graffiti at all. Maybe little scribbles of somebody’s name or sumthin super rare. I just didn’t see that stuff. From the people that I’ve spoken to, people are just scared to write on the walls because they are scared of the consequences like any police action and being stomped out. They don’t want to be locked up and they don’t want to be perceived as being anti-revolution when they’re really pro-revolution. They just think the cops don’t have the ability to process what they’re doing and they’re just going to immediately say that it’s anti-revolution or anti-Castro. So most people that I spoke to gave me that feedback and since I’ve gone and come back I’ve met a lot of people, a lot of painters, tattoo artists, visual artists, muralist. Now, there’s a little bubbling graffiti scene, but even to me the graffiti scene is really not a graffiti scene – perhaps it’s a movement that’s growing, but it isn’t so public…it isn’t so outdoors. Like kats are drawing, you know, like they’re doing pieces that are on paper. They’re not necessarily doing it and applying it on a wall because of what we just spoke about. Lately, I know this guy named Edgar and he’s part of a rap group called Doble Filo and he’s a graffiti writer out there and he does letter styles and he’s been painting a little bit in public and they have hidden spots where they paint like underneath the bridge or whatever. They get materials and they’re painting with paintbrushes and they’re not using spray paint because they don’t have spray paint. So him and his lady paint together and they have their little team and he’s been doing it and is really interested in it, but he’s privileged because he’s a rapper and he has a

Fighting Obstacles Knowing Ultimate Success broader perspective on it. He’s traveled abroad and he’s spent a lil bit of time in Holland as a young kid and so he’s seen other things and he’s brought that experience back to Cuba, but I see the scene over there as so tiny and it’s almost like it doesn’t exist to me. You know people don’t wanna be radical and vandalize because it’s contrary to the belief of the revolution. The belief of the revolution is to be ‘down with the people – not against the people’…they’re not trying to mess nobody’s house up there…they’re like “yo, they’re down with me…I’m down with them, I can’t just go and bomb [graffiti term used to say a tag is quickly thrown on a wall] their house…I can’t go bombing because that’s anti-revolution.” And for the whole mural thing, now kats are starting to paint pieces and stuff in public, they have permission, they get materials and they got support, but it’s so very very new. If you get to walk around Cuba today and if you see anything, a Cuban prolly didn’t do it – it might’ve been done by somebody else. Last year or maybe earlier this year, Osemelos from Brazil went out there and did some murals. Eezz was there last year and he painted. Neon was out there from Germany and he painted and you’ll see stuff like that that I’m sure gets guys and girls hyped to want to paint and those are the seeds that are getting planted and when it does happen, I don’t think it’s going to be the way we think about it here in the U.S., where its like tags and bombing. I think it’s going to be more of an artistic thing. Just because of how it would weave into the concept of being a part of the Cuban revolution. FOKUS: How do Cubans make hip-hop their own? Ket: First of all, it’s Spanish speaking. You know, Cuba is a Spanish language country so all the hip-hop that comes out of there is Spanish language. If there’s any English, it’s for pure rhyme play like very little stuff. It’s also very distinctly Cuban in the sense of their sampling techniques or their samples. They’re trying to sample music that’s from their heritage. So they’re playing it in Cuba and suddenly it’s like “oh, you sampled Mercedita Valdez” or whatever it is and that’s pretty cool and you’re not going to get that anywhere else because their sampling their own indigenous music whether its rumba or salsa or mambo or whatever they’re sampling. The other thing is really the content, the lyrical content of the

December 2004

music. If you go to Puerto Rico and if you go to the Dominican Republic, Spain, Argentina, Chile, and other places that are creating Spanish speaking hip-hop the content is totally different. The content in Cuba is, from what I’ve heard, I mean there’s similarities you know, but stuff that I’ve heard exclusively in Cuba are very much political – political hip-hop or political content in it. It’s religious – a lot of things that allude to Santeria, Espiretizmo, and the notion of Santos. It’s also very ‘city feeling’ – like it’s hard…some of it is dark and it’s about the struggle. It isn’t like when you go to Mexico City or when you go to Chile per say and some of the hip-hop that you see coming out of there is created by people that are privileged. If you go to Mexico, a lot of hip-hop is coming out of Monterey and the people of Monterey are paid and so the kids that are creating hip-hop are middle class kids. That doesn’t happen – it’s not like that in Cuba. In Cuba it’s coming from people that are equal, but they’re all poor and so they are talking about a struggle and they are talking about their ambitions. The music is also very much eighties where it feels like it’s the 80’s where it’s like brack-a-doches and hard like their testing you and they want to battle…they are the shit...they believe that they’re better than anybody else on the planet – they have ego. It’s hard at the same time. It’s definitely not like soft rap middle age rap and it ain’t like that and I think that’s why it’s so different. It’s also not being influenced. It’s being made by people in Cuba – it’s not like here in the U.S. where everyone is contributing to it or like in Puerto Rico…like they’re not building with other places. It’s on the island; it’s being done there, on their own with their own tools with what they got, PERIOD. And it’s low budget. I mean it sounds great, but it’s not with the crazy samplers and the special drum machines or the super tricks…nah, it’s low budget, it’s raw, sounds good, and they’re doing it. I don’t know…kinda like no-frills hip-hop. FOKUS: What future do you see with hip-hop in Cuba? Ket: I think it’s only positive. You know Cuban hip-hop at this point is supported by the government. The Cuban government has its back. It’s very organized and they’re a part of the musicians union. It’s seen as the #1 form of music for the youth out there. It’s played on the radio out there; it’s played on the TV out there, so that rappers out there like Anonimo Consejo

Fighting Obstacles Knowing Ultimate Success are celebrities in Cuba, but it’s not based on sales, it’s not based on income – it’s based on music. It’s based on ability and it’s based on sound….just that, it’s based on talent and so the future of it out there is I think sky’s the limit. I mean these guys are touring Cuba and the great thing is that it’s supported by the government – the government believes in them and for a place like Cuba that’s necessary. You don’t want it to be outlawed, you don’t want it to be radical – you want it to be totally mainstream even though your ideas might be a little bit outside the mainstream. You want everybody to embrace it and that’s happening in Cuba with the music and hopefully it continues with the art scene. When you go to the clubs and listen, it’s hip-hop – that’s what they’re playing. It’s either hip-hop or electronic music, but it’s mostly hip-hop. Young people know it everywhere…they know Snoops music, they know the Neptunes’ music, they know Anonimo Consejo’s music, they know Orishas music, and I think it’s only going to grow. It’s going to continue to have an impact on how young people think and how they express themselves there. I think it’s going to have the ability to really spread some good ideas around because a lot of the musicians that are making it get a chance to leave the island to go learn and come back and spread some new philosophy and new ideology. They also speak to more people than the average people and so they are coming in contact with so many ideas and so many people – it’s going back into the music and they spread the message and it’s pretty positive. I can only envision good things and a good future for it as it gets older, stronger, and more mature. The real cool thing about it is that it’s revolutionary – that it is forward thinking. Of course there are little kids that are doing that are not there yet, but the people that are really the O.G’s or the people that are putting in the work have a really solid foundation in the struggle, in the revolution, in good hip-hop – not this bullshit…they have good mentors out there, you know, some of these people are being mentored by people like Nahanda Abiodune, a former black panther. They’re being mentored by or they’re building with people like myself, when I travel out there or somebody like Danny Hoch when he travels out there or people like Mos Def who’s gone out there and Common. Like they’re getting cues from those people. I started this organization or was a founding member rather of an organization called Black August. Black August

December 2004

is a musical bridge…it’s a couple of things. It’s a grassroots organization created to help political prisoners stay out of the hands of the law and also to help build a music bridge or connection between hip-hop and all different places, so between here and Cuba, here and South Africa, here and Brazil…things like that. So for the first few years of the organization, we made it a point to raise money, we did concerts in New York; we raised money for political prisoners to help them continue their struggle. If they happened to be underground or they were in exile and they need money or whatever, help for their legal battles whatever the case might be and do this bridge. So for the first few years, we were taking artist to Cuba. We took Blackstar, which is Mos Def, Talib Kweli, and Hi Tek…we took Tony Touch out there and we took Common out there and Dead Prez. A lot of different artists and that to me is very important because it meshed very well with what was going on in Cuba and the types of messages that they’re trying to spread and the type of music that these guys happened to be creating at that time. It was inspirational to Cuban artist to see that people from the United States would care enough to come and build with them and have this kind of exchange. I think if those things continue to happen it’s a big deal. Since then, you know the Roots have gone out there to perform and people like Freestyle Fellowship has gone out there to perform. Kats from all over the world come out – you know there’s a hip-hop festival that happens every year in August and it’s a real big deal. It’s a week long festival and stuff like that doesn’t happen here in New York or in the United States. I mean, we have things that are less about building community or building or showcasing talent, an up and coming talent, an old and new than they do and it’s pretty hot. It’s international you know and so I look forward to everything. I look forward to going back in August…I look forward in participating and in what they’ve been doing for over 10 years and it’s a pretty amazing scene out there, very young, very vibrant and exciting unlike what’s been going on out here where it’s been going on for so long and it’s so commercial at this point and that everything that comes out seems as if it’s only for the sake of commerce. It’s not for the sake of having this message or I have this incredible talent that I have to get out there…I mean, there’s some of that of course and maybe that’s underground hip-hop, but it seems here it’s kind of like shadowed by all the work

Fighting Obstacles Knowing Ultimate Success that the record labels do and stuff like that. Even the graffiti thing – it’s very much commercial here today. But I have high hopes and I’ve been listening to the music when I get it and it’s getting better and better and it’s pretty cool.

.: Keeping it alive :. FOKUS: What is your art? John Legend: First and foremost, I'm a composer and arranger. I try to create music that will move people and evoke a passionate reaction. And as a singer/pianist, I try to deliver that music with passion and spirit. FOKUS: Where do you draw your inspirations from? John Legend: I draw my musical inspirations from a variety of sources. I grew up playing in a Pentecostal church, so gospel music is the core of my musical background. Everything I do is influenced by gospel music. But I've also drawn a lot of inspiration from classic soul (like Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin) and from newer hip-hop & soul artists (like Lauryn Hill, Tony Toni Tone and early Mary J. Blige). My album is a fusion of those musical influences. Lyrically, I'm inspired by my life experiences and the experiences of my friends and family. I write a lot about relationships and dating from my perspective as a 25-year old single man. I talk about the real things we go through, and I think it's something that a lot of people can relate to. FOKUS: Describe the importance performances targeted for students.


John Legend: I love performing for college crowds. They are my most enthusiastic and informed fans. They have all the bootlegs and they're always up on what's hot and new. Most of my tour this fall has been at college venues. I love it. FOKUS: Describe the transition from Ohio to New York to get your career started. John Legend: Well, first I moved from Ohio to Philadelphia. I went to college at the University of Pennsylvania. That was my first time being away from Ohio for any length of

December 2004

time. I was really young because I graduated high school at 16. So college in a big city was a big adjustment from my small town life. But I was involved in a lot of musical stuff like a college a cappella group and directing a church choir, so that helped make the transition easier. After graduating, I eventually moved to New York to pursue my career further. I started my band and made my first demos around that time. Being in New York was good for me because I was able to meet a lot of people in the business, including people like Kanye and others that I've worked with. It's hard to break into the business if you're not in a city like New York or L.A. I'd advise people who want to get discovered to make their way to one of those cities. FOKUS: How did your parent's feel about you going to New York to start your singing career? John Legend: My parents have always been supportive of me. They trust me to make good decisions about my career. They knew I had an Ivy League degree to fall back on, so they weren't too worried about me. And I grew up in a very musical, artistic family, so they're happy to see me doing that for a living. FOKUS: What were the other musical and artistic talents within your family? John Legend: My father is a painter and he sings and plays drums as well. My mother sings beautifully. My grandmothers on both sides play piano & organ. Several aunts & uncles sing. My older brother is a painter and plays drums. My younger brother sings and acts. My younger sister sings. I have my whole extended family on one of my records on my album. The song is called "It Don't Have to Change." It's such a good feeling to be able to feature my family on my album. I'm about to do a Thanksgiving show in my hometown which will also feature my family. FOKUS: What feeling did you have when you first heard your voice on the radio, both as a guest artist and then when it was your own song? John Legend: It's so good to hear yourself on

Fighting Obstacles Knowing Ultimate Success the radio. It's the culmination of all the work I've been putting in to even be recognized and signed by a record label. Then to go that next step and have a hit record on the radio is great. But it's just the beginning. There's a lot more I want to do in my career. FOKUS: What are the plans for the future? If you could have your ideal situation, what would it be and what would you be doing? John Legend: My main ambition is to be a great artist/songwriter/producer for a long time. I want to tour all over the world and touch the world with my music. Some people want to start entertainment/fashion conglomerates, which is cool for some people, but I'd be happy if I can just be a great artist. I don't need anything else. FOKUS: Any last thoughts or messages you would like to share? John Legend: I'm sorry our show got off to such a rough start, but I really appreciate all the people from U of Michigan who hung around for the show. I hope it was worth the wait.

.: Stringing Out:. I got the chance to chat with Sharief throughout the night of our show and he is one cool cat[the fact that we are both from BK just increased the cool]. He is sick nasty on the guitar! Remember to go get his album, “Bubbys Luv” when it drops on December 7th. Below is an interview I managed to get with him. FOKUS: Introduce yourself to the readers. Sharief: Hey y'all this Sharief of "Sharief in Burgundy." If you were at the John Legend show on your campus then you would've seen me playing guitar. FOKUS: What is your art? Sharief: I'm a singer, songwriter, composer, producer, musician and entertainer. FOKUS: Where do you get your inspirations from?

December 2004

Sharief: "Life" is the ultimate inspiration. People relate to what they know or what they've experienced...everyday things, and that comes through living...LIFE FOKUS: What are your plans for the future, both short term and long term? Sharief: My short term plans are to continue playing with John Legend while promoting my independent release "BUBBY'S LUV" Long term I plan to take the world by storm with my version SOULROCK. FOKUS: How long have you been playing music? Sharief: All my life FOKUS: You mention “why does it have to be “neo’, why can’t it just be Soul?’’ Can you expand upon that? Why do you feel this way about trendy labels? Sharief: I'm glad you asked that...I don't want people to confuse me when I say that. I'm not trying "dis" anyone in the "neo" soul*t, I worked with most of 'em. What I don't necessarily like is the title "neo". To me it almost implies "pseudo". I just think it's "soul" music. Sure it might have a hip-hop beat underneath, but the music itself is still coming "from the soul". FOKUS: What limitations or assistance do such labels provide? Sharief: They provide a category. And I think the masses (record buyers) want to get away from being spoon-fed regurgitations of the same ole' cookie cutter BS. People want to hear a record that has more than 1 style of music on it. They want to hear a record that the artist actually wrote and performed on, and not 1 that was just packaged and/or formulated. FOKUS: What would be your message to encourage the arts in students and individuals everywhere; the appreciation, exploration and displaying their talents? Sharief: You hear it all the time but just be true to yourself and follow your dreams. Learn the business, make a plan, and be persistent. Know exactly what it is you want to do. In this business, there's more than

Fighting Obstacles Knowing Ultimate Success one avenue, and more than one way to be heard. FOKUS: Any last thoughts, messages or things you want to say to everyone? Sharief: I want to thank you all for taking a moment to share with me and allowing me to share with you. I hope you pick up my cd "BUBBY'S LUV". Advance copies will be on sale via the internet after Dec. 7th at and most of all, be good to each other. Thank you and God Bless. FOKUS: Below is a list of Sharief’s credits: Alicia Keys, Amandla, Ananda Acoustic Root, Angeldust, Bilal, Brook Valentine, Camille Yarbrough, Carl Hancock Rux, Ceelo, Chocolate Genius, Citizen Cope, Common, D'Angelo, Devo Springsteen, DJ Scratch, Erykah Badu, Hub Moore, Jack Herrera, Jaguar Wright, Jazzyfatnastees, John Legend, Kanye West, Kecia, Kindred the Family Soul Band, Lauryn Hill, Liz Fields, Macy Gray, Maxwell, Me’shell N'degeocello, Miho, Musiq Soulchild, Peven Everette, Stephan Smith, Steve Harvey, The Last Poets, The Roots Crew, The Soul Diggaz, Toshi Regan, Vivian Green, Ween.

December 2004

paper of all sorts – the Cuban authors and artists that work on these books look beyond their normal constraints and use what’s available to them (paper from the butcher shop, cigar boxes, twigs, etc.) to create what can be seen as this “salvaged art.” For one individual author, approximately 200 books are made, which in a way makes each book a limited edition collectors item when you think about it. The uniqueness of the “Vigia” book is created with a lot of detail, time, and effort put into each book. These priceless items give us a piece of each writer and artist that works on it. When money comes in from those who purchase the books worldwide, it’s used to purchase more rare art materials to make the next book. The artistas don’t make much money from their work, but it seems more rewarding to them to have the ability and opportunity to express themselves through art ‘by any means necessary’ than no expression at all. To catch a glimpse of these books, you can see them in both the U of M & MSU Libraries Special Collections.

.: Salvage Art :.

Purple Hibiscus By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

[ BRAIN FOOD ] .: Salvage Art :.

Located sixty miles from the capital city of Havana, the town of Matanzas is the birthplace of “Vigia” books. These unique homemade books are not only pieces of literature, but also a work of art that pushes the envelope of freedom of expression in the revolutionary environment of Cuba. While many of us in the United States are fortunate enough to have computers, copying machines, art supplies and

Told by 14-year-old Kambili, Purple Hibiscus, at first appears as a story of the perfect family, they are relatively wealthy, and have a beautiful home, with servants and several expensive cars. What is soon revealed is a family that is in constant fear of the religiously fanatical father, living in a deafening silence that everyone tries to fill but it always overwhelms them. When the tragic death of a dear friend brings danger close to the family, Kambili and her older brother, Jaja, are sent to stay with an aunt for awhile, in a small university town. Here they receive a view of the world never before seen. They find a place where adults and children have actual conversations, music is played and laughter and happiness is bountiful. The young narrator

- 10

Fighting Obstacles Knowing Ultimate Success describes a rough transition where her shyness and reclusiveness often makes her feel shame and apprehension. The two soon become accustomed to the new world but when returning home and she finds many blemishes on their once perfect life. Told with the accurate confusion and naivety of a fourteen year old, Adichie, draws a picture so vivid and vibrant the reader is transported to Nigeria. Taken back to the awkwardness of the age and thrusted into this new place, the reader is inundated with feelings of sympathy and curiosity. Purple Hibiscus is story of discovery, pain, love, and hate. Experiencing all these emotions through the eyes of this young girl makes for a sometimes simplistic view that is perfect for these very complicated subjects, leaving out the over analysis adults are sometimes guilty of. The reader gets the truth which is sometimes refreshing and sometimes heartbreaking. ~Khepra

[ FLICKS ] Legend 20 / 20 Now Playing Robert Nester Marley, the man, the musician, the legend. The DVD gives you insight into those three aspects of Marley. The audio and video digital reproduction is outstanding. Legend, not to be mistaken with his album by the same name, is a greatly produced disc. A great feature is the ability to make a playlist of the videos. My favorite segment of this disc is the documentary, “Time Will Tell.” The footage instantly draws you in because you witness Bob along with Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer and other figures that were involved in one aspect or another with his life. Marley touches on everything from his music and his way of life to the political action that is taking place during that time. It is very hard to pass up this outstanding collection that gives you a great light into Marley’s life. ~Atiba

December 2004

Talking HeadsStop Making Sense 20 / 20 Now Playing In the Eighties, weird was mainstream, and bands had incredible creative leeway to try new and interesting ideas. The Talking Heads are not the first name to come up when you think of the era of big hair, but they took music to a completely different place by melding pop, funk, and the any other sound they could mix in. They made arguably the greatest rock concert video ever in 1983 with Stop Making Sense. Directed and shot by Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs, Manchurian Candidate) over a three-day concert set in Hollywood, Stop Making Sense completely captures the energy and imagination of the Talking Heads most famous concert tour. David Byrne is the creative mastermind and lead singer of the Talking Heads. He named the tour Stop Making Sense because he says music doesn’t make sense and he wants people to stop trying to intellectualize everything. I don’t think you could make sense of this DVD if you tried, so he accomplished his goal. The DVD not only shows the musical footage of the band, but captures the whole creative scene of the concert, from the unusual dances to the backdrops and lighting. Each song is meant to be a new artistic experience, so you are taking in not only the music but the whole feeling of the concert. The DVD builds itself up just like the concert did, starting with just David Byrne, a guitar, and a boombox and gradually putting together the band and stage one member at a time after each song. By the time the concert hits its peak with the song Burning Down the House the whole spectacle is on stage complete with a screen and ten members. Even if 80’s pop/funk isn’t for you, the creativity and overall weirdness of David Byrne makes the DVD a must see. I rate this DVD a 20, it is a classic, and even if the ingenuity or the music don’t strike you, I guarantee you will laugh at the dance moves. ~Collier

- 11

Fighting Obstacles Knowing Ultimate Success

December 2004

Boondocks – Aaron McGruder

Artists Wanted ! Submit your work to and have it featured in an upcoming newsletter or on the website.

- 12

Fighting Obstacles Knowing Ultimate Success

November 2004

Creativity Is King

- 13