Reflections From Paradise

Reflections From Paradise

When we landed on the small Indonesian Island of Bali I had no idea what to expect.
Many people I know who’ve been there, describe it as Paradise and I was eager to find out why.
When entering a new country, I always take a moment as I leave the airport to inhale deeply. I want to smell the air, feel the energy and say a short prayer of gratitude to the land for accepting me.

During the ride to our residence the town began taking shape, with massive Temples and bright colored shrines on every corner, next to every home and before you walk in any store. There’s no escaping the feeling that here you’re on holy ground. Bali has beautiful mountain landscapes, large colorful jungle leaves, sunshine that hugs you like a loving mother and people who seem obsessed with serving.


We stayed in a private villa that came complete with a swimming pool, six rooms with individual showers & tubs, a huge kitchen and a full staff that cleaned and cooked whatever we requested. I know this sounds like a billionaires palace and indeed it felt that way but trust, it wasn’t very expensive by Western standards. The staff was super nice, but more then nice they were kind. The type of kindness you know comes from the inside out exuded peace, more than just “the customer is always right” attitude.

I’m drawn to beautiful humans with strong cultures that operate from spirits I feel vibrate love.
I felt this before in Cartagena, Colombia, as well as Dakar, Senegal. Spiritual cultures exist on every continent and come in various religions that I find all have similar principles. Honestly these travels are making me view God as more then Islam, Christianity, Judaism or any faith that espouses itself as “The 1 True Faith”. I’m seeing that God is everywhere in Multiple forms that can take shape in many religious practices.

At about 12:30 a.m. my body clock hadn’t adjusted to the Asian time zone so i was wide awake and anxious. I wanted to tour the area on foot to really see the people, smell the air and perhaps get some souvenirs early on. FYI This place doesn’t sleep. I asked one of the staff how dangerous it was to walk the street alone at night, she laughed so hard her head flew back as she grabbed her gut and replied in broken English “Nooo Its Very safe here, you walk anywhere you want no-one harm you, this is paradise”.


I walked for 3hrs starting at 1am through the tourists districts and even a few dark streets & alleys. I observed the main source of Balinese income “Australian Tourism”. Some making deals with venders, some being loud drunk & rude, some entering the many massage parlors they have on every corner. The Bali people are well known for their great massages, in fact I had a few during my stay and for a person who doesn’t like to be touched intimately by strangers, I can say it felt remarkably rejuvenating, comforting and even a bit empowering (Side note: These were not rub & tugs, they were legit messages).

The next day I took a walk and began talking to people on the street asking questions about the shrines and small offering pots on every street corner decorated with flowers, fruit, candy or small amounts of money. Strangers happily explained the Balinese religion, which is its own special brand of Hinduism. A blend of Shivaism and Buddhism. Someone even said to me “The truth is one; the interpretation, multiple.”

The offerings left outside everyday represent giving back to the various God’s that protect the land and bless the people. They have many God’s but break them down into 5 elements:
* Space
* Air
* Earth
* Fire
* Water

They believe in the Sun God & The God of Security & Protection which were the majority of shrines I saw. Far from any kind of expert, I began to realize the Balinese people have many God’s that merge into oneness within the spirit.


The offerings have multiple purposes including feeding stray animals they don’t leash or own, they just feed and let be free. “WOW”! These people weren’t servants they were just “Of Service”. Trained that way by their faith. Balinese people aren’t very wealthy but work extremely hard with pleasure. One of them even sat with me to say how much they enjoy their work.

I pray for this place. I pray tourists don’t ruin it by introducing unhealthy ideas.
I pray selfishness never overruns the sense of self that exists here.
I made friends in Bali I know I’ll have for life. This also sparked an intense interest in Buddism.
Thank you beautiful Balinese people for opening my eyes wider!

Im Not A Sneaker Head But Hip Hop Needs A 5th Element!

Note: All photos by @cristopherschafer on Instagram. Please provide photo credit if the photos are reposted or shared. Thank you!

Yesterday Jeff & the crew were all invited to an upscale Retail consignment shop that specializes in rare and exclusive sneakers. I must admit, I’m not a “Sneaker Head” which to many in hip-hop culture sounds blasphemous. Hip-hop is known to have 4 principle Elements
1) DJ’in,
2) M.C.’s,
3) Graffiti
4) Breakin’
I think it’s proper at this point in history to amend it’s pillars to include
5) Sneaker Heads


From the early days of Run D.M.C. yelling “My A-Didas” to Nelly stompin’ in his “Airforce One’s”, artists and fans alike have been infatuated with foot wear.
Although I’ve never been as entranced by a pair of vintage Nikes as those around me, I didn’t want to miss an opportunity to see what the fuss was all about.
We went to a small shop in London called “Presented By,” They shut down the store to give Jazzy Jeff and the rest of us a tour and education about the product and business of Sneaker retail culture.


The first things I saw were the various incarnations of Yeezys. Prices ranging between $600-$5000. I was utterly shocked! As much time as I’ve spent with Kanye in my life, I never knew how expensive and important his shoes and clothing line were to the culture that supports it. I was told stories about how people literally sit and look for pictures to see what he wears to and from his office so they can scavenge for where to find the apparel. Some fans sit outside of stores for days to buy shoes and even pay people to stand in line for them.


Pharell has a line of shoes called racers that used to sale for about $250 but now people all over the world look for certain pairs of them and are willing to pay way more. Of course a nice pair of vintage Jordans are always the most sought after, drooled over shoe everyone’s eyeing.
How about a pair of “Back 2 The Future” Marty Mcfly Nikes on sale for $150,000,00?


Of course these weren’t all the original prices Nike, Kanye and other sold the shoes for originally, but in this world the original price isn’t the point.
These shoes are always on limited runs, so people snatch them up quick then Jack the price up for those who are willing to pay for a piece of gym shoe history.


This culture is real, it’s profitable for those who know what they’re doing and it’s here to stay as long as Icons are willing to sell a piece of their personal style.
I’m happy I went to see what Sneaker culture was all about and get a full understanding of a part of hip-hop history that almost escaped me.
When I posted some of the kicks on my IG with the attached prices, I immediately got some push back with comments like “our folks better stop worrying about the latest sneaker coming out and learn how to manufacture and design them” or “You could buy a nice condo or fixer upper house to flip”.


The assessment that “These Are Just Shoes That Hold No True Value” is a bit short sighted to me after visiting this shop in the U.K. where the majority of purchasers of these expensive vintage shoes are not “people of color” but often designed by people of color and financially benefit “people of color” I’ve learned that this is not just a vanity sport, it’s an actual lifestyle and business for many people who pay rent, aquire property and support themselves buying and selling vintage shoes.


We often downplay forms of capitalism we don’t personally connect with, but honestly I don’t like the idea of “flipping buildings” especially in black communities where gentrification is real and we’re too quick to have mere transactional relationships that sell away our Land assets. Again I’m NOT A “SNEAKER HEAD” I like a nice pair of cowboy or Kenneth Cole boots to be honest.

 

But I did learn that Kanye, Pharell, 2 Chains & countless ball players who all have collaborations with distribution companies like Nike or Adidas are being empowered through hip-hop to influence how the world dresses and yes, also getting paid for it. To say “let’s open our own Manufacturing facilities” is in the right direction and necessary but in the words of a famous ranter “How Sway”?! Our people are growing with every generation, becoming more wealthy powerful and knowledgeable. Let’s be careful not to be harder on ourselves then others are on us.

Old School, New School, who has it harder?

Note: All photos by @cristopherschafer on Instagram. Please provide photo credit if the photos are reposted or shared. Thank you!

In Hip-hop it seems, every generation tends to think they have it the hardest.
I’ve seen some younger artist complain about not getting the chances they deserve because they’re overlooked for the less talented.
An oversaturated, commercialized industry that recognizes antics over skills is one of the many complaints I hear regularly.


Rappers from the 90’s era often complain they can’t be heard because its a young persons sport. “If you ain’t Lil this or that, you can’t get no shine”!
There’s 2 other generations of Hip-hop I’d like to acknowledge that I’ve had the privilege to interact with on meaningful levels.
Of course the 70’s to 80’s originators of the Genre like GrandMaster Flash, Treacherous 3, SugarHill Gang etc…
These artists may have the biggest legitamite gripe of any generation. They created Hip Hop!
The innovative Party rocking Djaying of Afrika Bombatta, the Masters of Ceremony Melly MeL, Grandmaster Caz and Kurtis Blow as well as many others who don’t collect pensions or honorable mentions.


Then there’s the maturing and diverse Hip-hop of the 80’s & 90’s crowd that ushered in L.L. Cool J, Rakim, KRS One and DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince. This generation was special because they began figuring out how to get paid off rap and pivot onto other platforms such as clothing, film, label ownership etc…
Touring with DJ Jazzy Jeff has given me the opportunity to pick his brain about these generational differences and inquire about his secrets to longevity.
Jeff is a Masterful tactitian when it comes to navigating spaces. He’s very frank but not confrontational, if he takes something personal you’d never know it. He enjoys music like most of us enjoy air, but also loves the artists attached to the creation of good music.


The crew on this tour ranks in age like this;
DJ Jazzy Jeff- age 52
DJ Ferno- age 30
(Coordinator) Uncle Steve- age 46
M.C.-Dayne Jordan- age 26
(Camera Guy) Chris- age 37
M.C. RhymeFest- age 40

The album we recently created “M3” also features Jeff’s amazingly talented son Amir- age 19.
In this project Jeff assembled almost every generation of Hip-hop.
Last night he told me “no-one can be everything to everybody, but together we can all make a difference”.
I view him like Proffessor X of the X-men, a true producer, who knows how to bring the best out of everyone and still show us how to work together for a common purpose.


I must admit, I’ve kinda been the Wolverine of the group, a little wild at times and alot of patience on Jeff’s part to deal with me, but I’m becoming civilized over time.
As we tour the world with audiences ranging in age of 17-30yrs old I’m realizing real quick I need to know a few Kendrick Lamar, Big K.R.I.T. and Vic Mensa joints in order to be relevant.
I can also throw in some of these “off the top of the dome” freestyles that amaze audiences who aren’t accustomed to that at live shows.
The counsel I give Dayne about how to keep mental stability in this industry and balance family, is just as valuable as him keeping me updated on new lyricists I need to be paying attention to.
Complaining about one another’s generation gets us no where in this $80 billion industry/Culture called hip-hop.
There’s enough for us all to do what we do best forever as long as we work together and continue to evolve as the times change.