Can You Cey Hip-Hop Art

My Buckshot and I caught industry pioneer Cey Adams and former DEF JAM promoter Bill Adler’s talk on the expansive world of hip-hop art, design and fashion at Young Blood Gallery & Boutique, in the Poncey-Highland neighborhood of The ATL on friday evening. I scooped up a signed version of their wonderful, colorful new book on the now thirty-five year old movement: DEFinition: The Art and Design of Hip-Hop. The art in the book just pops off the page, and I highly recommend buying a copy.

I found Cey to be an engaging alternative hero. From his grassroots history as an NYC graffiti artist in Queens, to his friendship with the once-raucous Beastie Boys. From his humorous business dealings with the ridiculously pretentious and driven Sean “Puffy” Combs, to his sense of marvel at the solid work of his peers. From his pride of personal accomplishment in creating a perfect Adidas track jacket, to his real love of what happened as the movement gained momentum in New York and gradually America as a whole. Over the years, hip-hop has culturally captivated the attention of the entire world in ways both surprisingly subtle and oh so obvious.

It was interesting to be getting an education from old school New York hip-hop industry vets in the current world capital of rap: THE ATL. Unfortunate that I found Mr. Adler’s delivery a bit too pompous in tone to add much easily-ingested enlightenment, but he did have a unique take on why Queens was actually the borough of The City where the bulk of creative activity took place: It was more suburban than Manhattan and Brooklyn – and in some ways more openminded because it was less full of ghetto struggle. That was not received well at all from several Brooklynites in the audience, but it was a curious and possibly true take on how and why the scene materialized where it did. The pulsing urban energy of NYC-Manhattan, NYC-Bronx, NYC-Brooklyn, mixed with the relative peace of mind that bred creativity and collectivity in NYC-Queens, where so many of the great performers lived.

Often overlooked fact that some of the more influential people in the explosion of hip-hop and its art were white folks working in predominantly black mediums. Some examples: Rick Rubin (Mega Producer), Keith Haring (Artist), the Beastie Boys (Rap Stars). Though an undeniably black creation of life expression – an African-American art form – the fusion of black urban and often white suburban energies is, to my mind, what pushed hip-hop into the stratosphere of unparalleled commercial popularity it realized.

Hip-hop and its cottage industries demonstrate the cultural power of AMERICA. Hip-hop is modern musical poetry and an all-American art movement. At its worst, it is just crappy noise, but at its best, it is musical art of top form.

Seven Atlanta Favorites:

1. Deepdene Park – The last of the Olmstead Linear Parks to be finished, it offers a duality of coin to the other parks in this chain, which are pastoral in park type and on the opposite side of Ponce de Leon Avenue. Deepdene is walking through the woods, and in the Deep South of The ATL that is a truly gorgeous thing. Frederick Law Olmstead designed Central Park in NYC and Piedmont Park in Atlanta. Olmstead Linear Parks was incomplete at the time of Frederick’s passing. However, his descendants and strong neighborhood and community support ensured that the task saw completion. This is what an Atlanta park can be at its best.

2. Flux (in Castleberry Hill) – Rock out to this most important of all ATL art neighborhoods, all done up in light, for one night per year. Previously entitled Le Flash, Jami and I vow not to miss this annual event.

3. HAWKS games – See and be seen amongst the Atlanta elite in the floor seats; catch a drink at the Absolut bar and Headliners. Then watch 6th-man-of-the-year-Jamal Crawford score at will off the bench, Joe Johnson be unstoppable on offense, Josh Smith (“J-Smoove”) soar and dunk and swat, Marvin for “3” and steady vet Mike Bibby running the floor. Throw in a Za Za for good measure – he is from the country of Georgia and also owns wine and food spot Eno (Midtown on Peachtree Street), now called Eno by Za Za. The Playoffs Are Coming. Take MARTA directly to the arena, 2nd stop on the westbound trains from Five Point’s Station. My girl is into it too.

4. COLLEGE FOOTBALL – From watching the SEC Championship Game live to sitting at home and watching on our TV sets, Atlanta is the undeniable world headquarters of American College Football and a short drive to ATHENS, home of the Georgia Dawgs and my alma mater, UGA, the oldest public college in the USA. My fellow alum girlfriend is really getting into it.

5. FOOD – Atlanta has become a major foodie restaurant scene – and I love to eat out, with my girl, of course.

6. LongBoarding Freedom Trail – Thank you, President Carter and MLK Jr. – You built this road and trail with your words. When I’m flying free on the trail, I feel so alive and awake and in love with life in Atlanta, y’all.

7. Pub Crawls on Ponce – See my boy Ed at El Bar for a shake-shake-shake after a few pops at Righteous Room, maybe a grilled cheese with sprouts and a side for $5 at the Righteous and a PBR with lime or mixed adult beverage while I play Joy division on the jukebox. After El Bar gets too crowded to dance, The Local and Bookhouse Pub can both be good hangs. Friends is probably the best gay hangout for straight people to gain education via jukeboxation. MJQ is still a great Wednesday dance spot for the best DJs. Dugans has great wings if you want them. And the Clermont Lounge is still open, although they finally closed the Clermont Hotel itself to the public. Still hungry as I walk home after maybe skipping those wings? The Majestic has been open 24-hours a day since 1929.

(Photo by: Han Vance)

Four Selected Poems

1. Talked to Alexander / 2. Things Fall / 3. Now That I’m… / 4. City Shine

1. “Talked to Alexander:”

Fossil fuel dreams until the tears come

And you half-cry, collapsing on your arms

His dad has a whole in the side of his throat

And the other side of the hospital

A child is born, his second, second boy

My father too with it; diagnosis?

Worse than they thought…more

And a strain of it so severe that

Even a few cells can mean re-surfacing

A year or five years down the road

2. “Things Fall:”

This is the time of year that you have waited for, and now it is here. Thousands of shades of green, at least thousands, and yellows, and greens that are becoming yellow. A few leaves have fallen, but it is still early in the fall, no real hint of the barrenness of winter to come. Winter seems so far away. Summer – with its oppressive heat and its thick Deep South humidity – seems so far away.

The clouds of white with hints of gray are painted on a true blue dream of a sky. They are moving with the breeze, very breezy in gusts. The sound of those first leaves tumbling across the street, blowing on the trees, falling off through the air.

“Lucky,” I say to the birds flying by. That first sign of red and orange on the big trees, such bucolic beauty, this suburb, if you ignore the car sounds and houses – McMansions, mixed in with older brick homes.

“Clunk.” My neighbor’s portable b-ball goal just blew over. Hard to ignore that.

Even that was on theme, I guess, the theme being things fall.

3. “Now That I’m…”:

Now that I’m an artist

That explains a lot

No wonder I stared like that

No wonder I listened too hard

No wonder I had to be you

No wonder I had to change

I had to try you on

You did not fit maybe

But I remember what the dress felt like

Everyone, almost

Almost every social level

I walked there

It’s disgusting

It’s insane

It’s like Jesus

It’s like, and I was black, almost

I have been infantile and upwardly mobile

I have never been you, thank God

But we have probably rubbed shoulders

I was compelled to walk in many shoes

So confused

So curious and I stared like that

And I listened too hard

And for what?

So I could, someday, write about it all

Now that I’m an artist, that finally makes sense

4. “City Shine:”

Glimmer Shimmer

Glimmer Shimmer

City Shine

Shine Clean My Mind

Glimmer Shimmer

Glimmer Shimmer

City Shine

Shine Clean My Mind

This Street Sweeper

This Street Walker

Sounds Of The Sights

Of My City-Talker

Disarmingly Smashing

Like Billy’s Pumpkins

And Other Fall Traditions

As Full Of Life’s Rich Pageant

As Classic City Gameday

In Red And Black

My Heart Was Bruised And Blue

Then I Re-met You

I Remit To You

To You, My Lord

To You, My Lord

And You Placed Me Here

In The Heart Of

One Of The Greatest Cities

In The World

You Placed Me

In The South – My Home

You Placed Me

In Georgia – My Home

You Placed Me In The ATL

And This Is For My City

I Speak For Her

A Bad Girl Gone Good

City Shine

Like New York, Only New

Glimmer Shimmer

Y’all, My City Shines

Glimmer Shimmer My Mind

ATL Fashion Scene Seen

In Atlanta, Strivers Row in the Virginia-Highlands neighborhood is the hot spot for high end casual wear for men right now. Will runs the joint in a really friendly way while keeping a sharp eye to new fashion industry labels and trends, and TI is a partner. Come looking for Japanese denim and the smartest outerwear and leave pleased.

Vinnies is direct from Downtown Brooklyn to you in L5P. Across from Variety Playhouse, the funky little building itself and Broadway style sign are what initially attracted me. Don’t be afraid to outshine the hippies and rockers in Little Five with these clean, preppy yet oh so urban looks. I just picked up a yellow, teal, aqua and white striped WESC knit polo shirt, with a two parrots logo. For that The City flavor, Vinnies Styles is not to be missed.

I mainly wear “Nike SBs” as far as kicks, because they have the most padding and look good. So I don’t buy shoes at Standard very often, and Standard – next to Cafe Intermezzo on Peachtree Street, in the Brookwood section of South Buckhead – is mostly known for shoes. The sneaker heads often camp out there waiting for the latest Kanye West Nike, or whatever, but Standard can’t sell Nike SB skate shoes, because those are only sold at skate shops, like Stratosphere in L5P, and Nike stores. I bought my last pair at the Nike Factory Store in Florida. Instead of regular sneaker pimpin’, I buy most of my graphic T-shirts at Standard. The sale rack is my absolute favorite for items from a mix of local labels like StreetLocal and Process, and national labels, like Benny Gold, Staple and FUCT. They also carry “A” hats and high end stuff like G-Star Raw, plus they give out hot free magazines, CD samplers and stickers. Tell Ryan or Corey I sent you by.

I bought a signature anniversary, gold soul monkey on black, T-shirt from local label Sol Munki before they recently closed their shop at North and Peachtree in South Midtown. The label seems to be rolling on along without the hidden little storefront, as they mentioned that they plan to focus on intensified West Coast marketing efforts. Their Naomi Campbell with her fingers in her mouth shirt is a personal favorite of mine.

Bill Hallman’s eye for fancy yet casual clothing is undeniable. He has the clean, local and monied look in lock with three storefronts. I ran into him at his Virginia-Highlands location recently. He was rocking a rustic and rugged, yet trim and sleek tan blazer over a popping blue button down shirt. I like the brightly-colored, fitted, plaid cowboy snap spring shirts he has in stock.

The artsy little Vacation recently closed up their storefront in the Poncey-Highland neighborhood behind Urban Outfitters. I’ll miss her fun mix of local art, kitsch and fashion.

Then again, open retail in prime spaces (like the space next door to Bill Hallman in Va-Hi), is simply an opportunity for fresh and exciting boutiques to move in, as the economy is finally on an awaited uptick in The ATL.

Wisteria – Great Southern Restaurant

Today, I have late dinner reservations at Wisteria in support of Inman Park Restaurant Week. My friend, Chef Jason Hill and I grew up together in Marietta, and he is Proprietor. The place is well-entrenched among the Atlanta acclaimed for his command of Southern food: modern and gourmet while at the same time classic. The fried chicken is bar none the single best in town, somehow lapping in my love the bird at Watershed in Decatur. The pork dish could be from Faulkner or Cold Mountain. And the shrimp and grits is no low, but dern if I did not feel like I was in the low country when they reached my jowl last time I was in, a couple of weeks ago, for my one year anniversary. Jami was so sweet and the mini-desserts are larger than thought and easily, so easily, made multiple. We enjoyed the pairing of Ice Wine and Coconut Pie the most. The bar and staff and building and wine and art are all just right. Right up the street from me, Jason has delivered the perfect blend of Atlanta and America -which is where we live my friends. America.


Tuesday night was a very fun time. I started the evening at home with my wonderful sweetheart and then ventured to JAVA LORDS in Little Five Points of The ATL for an open mic read.

I have had this unusually strong sense of place of late and have been writing of Atlanta and Georgia and America. Before departing the house, I watched a wild Of Montreal video (they are actually of ATHENS, GA and are my current favorite band). Along the way to L5P, I listened to the long-defunct ATL art rock band “BOB” (FYI: not nearly the same as the current local rapper of the same moniker). I was feeling my StreetLocal vibe and dressed to the nines in pink and tan.

Open mic at some places means strictly singer-songwriter, but Andrew hosts this event and also encourages poets and comedians. Also, JAVA LORDS is a coffeehouse with alcohol, which always adds a dimension to the room. I had a quick margarita at the wonderful EL MYR, next door, and then signed up to perform in the tenth spot.

The music was entertaining, especially the angst-fueled stuff by a singer/guitarist named Owen. A young singer/guitarist named Luke played a fun melody of Billy Joel’s Piano Man and an original he had written.

One poet other than I read. Missed his name, but he stands barefoot on a log, propped also by a wooden walking stick. His stuff had heart and seemed to me a call for a return in spirit to the simpler times in the South’s storied past – I saw him as a sort of modern day Walt Whitman.

More music while the “to go” nachos from EL MYR were ingested and washed down with a house drink called Spring Break, and then my time to shine came, and I did, reading 3 poems about Atlanta. The first was of my romance with MARTA trains (“I Have a Romance with the Subway”); the second was of Atlanta’s deserved title as Strip Club Capital of the World (“ATL-Strip”); and the third was “A-Town.”

And here are the last two lines of that final piece:

Frankly My Dears

I Do Give A Damn

…And I really do. May peace be with you! Oh, I almost forgot to mention, I found $11 on the floor.

Atop it

Never Lived In The Sky Before

And I Like It

As I Suspected I Might – More – I Like It More

A Deep Affinity For My City

I See My Former Corporate Office 40-Feet Ahead, Right

I Quit To Write

Farther Up The Backside Of The Peachtree Addresses

Spire – Condo World; Four Seasons’ Rocket Ship Richness

A Cut Of The Federal Reserve Building

1180 Peachtree – I Got That Deal For My Bosses Next Door

The Parking Garage There In Shiny Silver

Is Evident From Here

A Rocket Ship Mostly Obscured Behind Four Seasons

Pinnacle Barely Protruding, Steps Cascading

Left Of Center, The Star Of The Show

One Atlantic Center In A Nice Dark Tan

Cresting Atop, Ascending, Atlanta

Grey-Green Pyramiding With Gold Ornamental Balls

To The Righteous Top, A Light Blinking Atop It

Signifying Atlanta’s Trying

Back To Be The

Most Successful City

We Can Be But

Let’s Be Wiser

About Our Success

This Time Around

Truman Show (Death Cab for Cutie at Fabulous Fox)

He has a mohawk, this dog. Truman is half UGA English Bulldawg and half Shih Tzu – a “Bullshit” – and his daddy had just moved him to Midtown ATL and was taking him for a walk near the Fabulous Fox.

Financial snafus had recently resulted in his daddy, my apartment sub-leaser in Atlanta, missing a Death Cab for Cutie show in which he had tickets, waiting in vain at will call, in New Orleans, while he was stuck in Mobile, where he was relocating from. And Truman is the biggest pimp on Bourbon Street, but that is another story.

Picture this. Today Truman and his daddy are on a walk, side of The Fox. And Death Cab’s lead guitarist, Chris Walla pops up near his bus to meet the four-legged mohawked star.

Ensuing went like this: ATL, Fox, Free Tickets, 5th row, great show. I was there too, man. How many cuties filled the place in body, with their lilting voices, as Ben Gibbard encouraged them to sing the chorus for him? Oh, those Southern Belles. They would follow their men through the dark, to the afterlife.

Romantic love expressed in big thoughtful words, carried by palatable punchy chord structures that are all about moments. Big, powerful drum moments, bass boom tricks, winding guitar riffs. Of Seattle, Death Cab is more child of REM, the Smith’s, the Replacements than of Nirvana and the legion of always predictable 1990’s grunge negativists that were of that ilk. They aren’t afraid to be fun and it shows.

This night the band emanated a sense of big show comprehension. It was a blossoming performance full of momentum and harmonic energy.

The Fox is just plain gorgeous, y’all. And the light show indicated money, the ultimate sign of big record label trust and hope. Death Cab gave the guys in the suits behind them a huge reason to smile with the ultimate success of this show. Large engaged audience, delighting to an “on” band. They were really on…and it was spring in The ATL, so y’all know we were “on.”

The lovely, artsy couple next to us were also guests of Chris Walla; he had met the her of the two that morning at the bank in which she works. America can be cool sometimes.

Transcendent Funk

Thinking about the transcendent nature of art a lot lately. I contemplate the re-write of my manuscript-that-will-be-masterpiece novel while in the friendly skies; I stare at an otherworldly sculpture garden in the swelter of Mid-City New Orleans; I trip on the surrealistic paintings of Matthew Peck in his gallery in the French Quarter; I marvel at rocket ships of ATL architecture from a rooftop in the sky. And my hips sway to the sounds when I hear them.

My sexy girlfriend danced in front of me. We’d had a bit of a bad day before ENTROPY took to the stage at the 420fest in Candler Park of Atlanta. This was before the flight, before New Orleans. It was a spring festival in the capital of the south – nothing new to me about that. Heck, it was our second festival in two days. It was a writer’s work day, and I was not in the mood. My sublease had suddenly dissolved, and I was stuck in a financial muck causing me to question.

Then frontman Rod had a suggestion: Dance your troubles away. ENTROPY is black and white and modern and classic. They represent the funk in America now. And we still want the funk.

Rod fired us up, shook us from our winter slumber. And then Slappy took over – he as charismatic a guitar instigator as exists. And the stage was full with up to ten total people at a time…all with one cause: To get you out of your funk. And suddenly we were drunk on the sounds, the excitement. It worked, man, it works.

Rob Robinson is more pounding drum machine than human being. Steve Boyd from Parliament joined to add an undeniable credibility. Rod’s daughter did not let being on crutches stop her from making the show a family affair.

And we were one again. My girl and I moved together to the beat. The crowd moved together to the beat. One nation under a groove.

W. 34th and 8th

West 34th and 8th, Turning

Around to See the Empire

Her Pinnacle Shrouded in Clouds

As I Cross the Street

Already with My Cake to Eat

Fat Free Banana and Chocolate

From the Juice Bar, Two Bucks

I Love New York

Street Food

Now, I Stare at Madison Square Garden

And Spew

To You

Here ‘Cause

I’m Just

Passing Through

My Career Now Goes

To the Other Side