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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.

Dealing With Addictions on Tour

  • In the 3 days we’ve been on tour, there were some things I pre-promised myself to do in order to make this a safe productive experience.

    1) Workout regularly to not only keep my body fit, but perhaps come back even stronger.
    2) I want to write regularly, read some books in between flights and record new music with Jeff
    3) Stay as FAR AWAY FROM CRAPPY FOODS AS POSSIBLE!

    I have type 2 diabetes and the world can be a dangerous place to travel if I’m not careful.
    Out of all 3 of these goals I’ve been upholding my end of the bargain, with the exception of, guess what?
    That’s right, staying away from “The Junk”! Dammit!!!
    We landed in Dublin, Ireland and I realized Mc’Donalds had the Fried Glazed Apple Pies. A treat that was removed from the U.S. stores years ago in “The Clowns” attempt to clean up his act from all the processed meats & chicken slimes. Never-the-less I succumbed to the sugary treat so bad, I had 2 of dem’ bad boyz’ back 2 back!
    We had an amazing show at the Metropolis Festival in Dublin which “btw”, is an awesome city that I’d definetely return to even if just to party.  Remember, this tour is teaching me how to have fun again. I am an M.C. rockin’ the crowd and really enjoying this beautiful experience of world travel. The people of Dublin are friendly and super outgoing. They’re physically gorgeous and that “Fighting Irish” pride resonates from the inside out when they speak. The Irish are super proud of their culture and when DJ Fern and I went out to mingle in the crow it wasn’t long before I was being taught how to say Cheers in Irish Gaelic “SLAINTE!” Crashing our glasses together, smiling and having hearty laughs!
    Back Stage dinner was served and “What the hell”!!?? They had Delicious chef made Cheesecakes with fresh strawberries and syrup drawn elegantly across the whole plate. It was hard but thank God I passed on that. Some of our crew members decided to stop eating meat and are turning over a new leaf to be vegetarians, I jumped in and agreed to join them at least for the duration of the tour (Deep down knowing it was because I felt guilty about the super sweet waffle I had earlier).
    See what diabetics like me do sometimes is pivot to what may be an easier challenge in order to ignore, justify, or in some perverted way put a ✌🏾up to the Sugar Monster.
    If you see me out here with some Candy or sugar in my hand please hold me accountable, I may say something swift & clever in response but trust it’ll make a difference.
    I posted some Amazing pics from our night in Dublin and of course the Mc’Donalds Fried APPLE PIES got the most hits as of now lol.
    I want to live, I want to be healthy, I enjoy these new adventures and have alot to offer as well. This “sugar thing” I’m quickly realizing is not as much of a choice of self control as it is a real drug habbit. I plan to treat it as such and dedicate myself to beating both diseases: diabetes & my addiction to sugar.

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Oh The Places You’ll Go! My Thoughts on World Touring with DJ Jazzy Jeff

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

WHAT I’VE BEEN UP TO

When Jazzy Jeff asked me to come on tour around the world with him to promote the new music we created, I said “Yes!” before he got the word tour out his mouth. The last world tour we did together was 2007 a full 10yrs ago. Since then I’ve been playing a background role in Hip-Hops evolution, running for Office, helping to pen songs like “New Slaves”-Kanye West & “Glory”- Common & John Legend.  I did a documentary “In My Fathers House” that debuted on Showtime and even acted in a film with Emilio Estevez, Micheal K. Williams & Gabrielle Union (The Public) coming soon. Recently I’ve been nominated for an Emmy for a segment I produced called “Creating History with Rhymefest” for a local Chicago Station WCIU- THE U and I became a Montgomery Fellow at Dartmouth College, not to leave out my African Abolition work and endless community engagement with Dondas House for young artists in Chicago.

WHY I STOPPED

Yet with all of this, I haven’t truly picked up a Mic and hit the road like a dedicated M.C. should. Partially because I believe we as artists have to show the full range of our abilities. I didn’t want to just rap about and imagine the possibilities of changing communities, I actually wanted to do it. I also got caught up in chasing the wrong things, like fame and how many clicks I had on social media. I started becoming increasingly depressed when my peers got public accolades I believed I deserved. I decided to step away and work on myself and my purpose.

THE WORRY!

Fast forward to October 2017 The Magnificent DJ Jazzy Jeff World Tour feat. Dayne Jordan & Rhymefest. There were a lot of things I forgot how to do in preparation for this type of adventure. How do you pack a bag for a world tour without bringing your whole closet? I have diabetes now, how do I eat healthy on the go? What if I get sick? How do I shut off everything in my life to give this priority, and “oh shit” I don’t even have all the Raps memorized.

ARRIVAL

Our first stop was Dubai, I’ve never been here before but watch it all the time on my Apple TV screen savor and think “wow that place looks like the future”. As I departed the plane I quickly realized my assumption was correct. Dubai is Ultra Luxurious, the airport looks like a great work of modern art, as the driver picked me up in an all black Bentley I thought “ok this is interesting” I’m not a guy who feels totally comfortable indulging in Luxury (fyi). We rode past huge billboards selling Rolex watches, Lamborghini’s and whatever you can think of that costs 50k or more. Huge 5 lane highways with the cleanest streets I’ve ever seen. Capitalism on Steroids.  When I arrived at the hotel I was greeted with a platter of almonds wrapped in Dates & fresh fruit juice. The workers were all so nice and spoke fluent English. I checked in and made my way to Jeff’s suite where he immediately asked which song I wanted to do. I’m like dam “I thought perhaps I’d watch you guys the first night to see your routine then rehearse tomorrow before the show”? Ya know, seeing as how I haven’t done this in a while and was still learning my own raps. Dayne laughed and said nah just jump in the ring Fest you got it.

The Fire Walk

We were all escorted downstairs to a huge party on the beach with a dope ass stage, complete with Huge Fire Pyrotechnics the prettiest women from all over the world ready to dance, guys in Halloween Costumes, minimum security a turntable & 2 mics. All I could think was “let me deploy these new found acting skills of mine to work my way through this”. The music began. Dayne Hyped the crowd, Jeff transformed into The Magnificent DJ Jazzy Jeff! I had a million thoughts racing, had I forgotten how to say “Just throw your hands in THE AIRRR, SAY hooo!!!” And mean it? Or how to control a crowd that could give 2 fucks about my Fellowship & intellectual prowess because they came to dance. I had to re-learn how to bridge that gap… yet when my mouth opened and the beat started thumping it all came back to me like lost lovers reunited. The crowd kept groovin’ Dayne and I began to find our chemistry and The World Tour officially started with a BANG!

 

THANKS JEFF FOR RE-INTRODUCING ME TO THE WORLD.