free website hit counter Spiced Tea & Letters: May 2005

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Common Says You Gotta Be...

Common Q&A
by Laylah Amatullah Barrayn
Excepted from the Article

Beautiful Photo's by Delphine A. Fawundu-Buford

Days before Common’s highly anticipated album, he sat down with after giving a kinetic show in the pouring rain at NYC's Columbia University. The new album is called Be. Electric Circus was almost called The Isness, Laylah Amatullah Barrayn asked Common, “Was there a relationship between those titles?” Common answers…

Common: Both of those things do symbolize certain things. The Isness was saying that ‘It is what it is.’ And I was honestly coming from a place, like at the time of [Electric Circus], this is what it is. This is hip hop, you don’t have to really judge it or try to figure it out.

BE came from another place, where it was like ‘I had been through this struggle and I had been through the lack of response to [Electric Circus], I been through the break up with me and [Erykah Badu].' What do I want to do? I want to be, I want to exist. And exist from the core of who I am.

That is what BE means, to be who you are, the simplicity of being. Not trying too hard, to be who you are, no matter where you are. You can walk in a room and be amongst gangsters and still be humble and be a nice guy. You can walk amongst the bourgeois. It’s about honoring self.

LAB:Is going back home apart of being? Your video for “The Corner” was shot in Chicago.

When you be, you gotta deal with where you began. Along with the root of yourself, you have to look at where you have evolved. Going home was very symbolic. It represented going home, physically and spiritually. Chicago is the foundation for me. Going home doesn’t mean you’re trying to live in the past. That’s not being. One thing I was really adamant about was that you have to be in the present, you can’t dwell in the past. You can’t worry about the future, you just gotta be. Even in certain situations that aren’t going your way, you still gotta be. Another thing that BE meant to me was being human. You can be angry at a certain point, you could be happy, you could be sexual, you could be holy. You could be laughing and crying.

LAB:What is it about Chicago that made you express yourself through hip hop as opposed to expressing yourself any other way?

Chicago is such an authentic city to me. It’s really not an industry driven place. You don’t have record companies and movie houses. It’s really a blue-collar city and a real soulful city. It’s authentic in that if you are something, then you better be it or you will get called out. Where in some places you might put on a character and people might accept it. So, Chicago set that tone for me to be authentic.

LAB:So, are there any specific aspects of Chicago that drew you to hip hop?

Oh, yeah. See, Chicago is a black city. It’s very segregated, too. Hip hop is such a real art form and it’s true to who we are. We didn’t put up no masks. When we started break dancing and cats was getting on the mic talking about each other, dissin each other, talking about what’s going on in their neighborhood, using their imagination, creating stories. That real aspect of hip hop is what I connected to. Which is what Chicago is about, the realness. So, hip hop was very revolutionary. Chicago just got an underlining tone, a revolutionary tone too. It’s a lot of ordinary people, there’s still a movement. Before we had the Black Panthers, now we have Fred [Hampton] Jr. and Aaron Patterson and people trying to make moves.

Read the whole article on

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Star Trek, opps..I mean STAR WARS!

I.L.M./Lucasfilm/20th Century Fox

Even Yoda is fly. I am having a very Star Wars weekend. Such a great film. Although A.O. Scott of the New York Times was right when he observed the not so stellar acting from Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman. They were okay. But had Mr. Lucas given more room for Sam Jackson and Jimmy Smits to do their thang, it just would have added to greatness that is Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith.

Nigel and I was among those who saw the first show at Midnight, which was one of the most exciting things I did this year; even more exciting than flying to Barbados with Alicia Keys. Our theater was sold out of course. There was a red carpet laid out for us Star Wars faithful. We got to see it in digital film which was insanely detailed.

It was a bitter sweet moment for many. This being the last piece to the Star Wars trilogy. But for me, since I haven't seen all of the movies, I've been lended more time before I can close the doors on this cinematic epic.

Gotta run...

Moving On - Excerpted

Moving On
excerpted from My Soul to His Spirit

When it's raining, down South at least, there is no noise in the house. Everyone is quiet and all the electricity is off. TV's and radios. You know this rule, but, when the stereo in the corner comes into your view it politely suggests that you turn it on. You venture over there and press down on the play button. Michael Jackson begins to sing: "Let me show you/let me show you the way to go..."

And you begin to move. First, you get the hip hop-club nod going, and then your foot starts tapping with Tito's pulsating bass, and, then, ah sookie, sookie now, your Black girl hips come swaying into the groove, signifying the beginning of official gettin' down. And you're just dancing and it's all good because your daddy just couldn't be dead. Just could not happen. It's a party up you silently delcare.

You hustle your way to the door, lock it and turn Michael up to the max: I don't know anything/but that's something I do know/I know/I know..."

My Soul to His stores now!

Friday, May 20, 2005

An Old Story Never Told. Part One

I walked through the back streets of Cape Town on a perfect Sunday morning. On each corner were groups of children singing gospel songs for money; their voices were naturally pitched and evocative. Each day while in this coastal city, no matter where I went, I was greeted by the enormous flat-topped Table mountain, it tickled the heavens while piercing the clouds. I pretended that I was a native to this city and made myself believe that I was used to this magnificence.

I stood at the bottom of the earth, on top of the world. I stood confidently at the very top of the tallest mountain I had ever climbed. I was at the southernmost tip of Africa. I heard the wind in amazing detail.

At one point in my life, walking across the Brooklyn Bridge scared me. But there on that mountain, I stood hoisted up so high I saw the earth curve. I saw the Atlantic Ocean and Indian Ocean crash into each other with dueling fervor.

I ate warm Malva pudding in the Langa township. I ate warm Malva pudding in a five star restaurant. The township Malva pudding was served to me in a humble plastic bowl; handed to me with both hands by a woman who’s smile couldn’t contain whatever she imagined about me. She thought it funny that of all things to eat, I wanted Malva pudding. She didn’t understand that in a week of landing in South Africa I had become a Malva pudding connoisseur.

I had lunch on a plantation. Right on the porch of the big white house. I didn’t realize that I was on a plantation at first because why on earth would I, a Black Muslim woman, be invited to have lunch and taste wine on a plantation.

Two weeks before all of this I said goodbye to some of my favorite CD's. I had no money to get to my internship at that music magazine where I was virtually ignored. The man in the record store didn't save me from myself. He didn't sense that I really didn't want to give up my records. He examined my Stevie Wonder, Bob Marley, Cassandra Wilson, Destiny’s Child CD's, stacked them up, counted them and handed me six dollars. I was able to get on the subway into the city.

I had six dollars and a heart bursting with devotion. I was in love as much as I understood love to be. I was driven by it, too. I knew that I would make my way to Southern Africa to see you. I know what Africa does to folks. It’s a very specific sophistication that is acquired once you visit. And, I didn't want to be anything other than a reflection of you. I needed to see everything you were seeing. The reasons? One, I made the trip for us - so that our conversations would flow and not be interuppted by explanations of things like Truth and Reconciliation and the nature of Sun City. Two, I wanted to travel. In that very order of importance. Did I realize then that you were like a speeding train that I would eventually fail to keep up with? No.

I was hopeful as it was humanly possible. I made it over to the motherland, in the highest of class, at that. But before I saw you, I had to wait. I listened to live jazz; I danced in a shebeen; I argued with fellow journalists; I met a married man who wanted marry me; I got chased by a posse of baboons; I climbed mountains; I ate Malva pudding until I saw polka dots; I wondered about drinking purple wine and would it dye my lips and tongue; I cried and didn’t know why; I almost drowned in a bathtub seemingly made for royalty.

Then came the time where we would meet. I called you that morning. Told you I would be in the city of gold later that day.

Bébé on Gorée

Bébé on Gorée. Dakar, SenegalPosted by Hello
by Laylah Amatullah Barrayn

Africa. Senegal. The Beach. The crazily hot sun. The cold nights where I search for my socks to comfort my chilly feet. The airlines that operate at their leisure. The grilled fish and ubiquitous mayonnaise. Nanga Def? Ça va? As Salaamu Alaikum. Labbas? I am looking forward to another trans-Atlantic journey to Afrique.

The Intro

Greetings, everyone...I'm here with my first blog!

Believe it or not, I'm shy...

Here I am, a writer by profession, shy to say whats on my mind. But, that could be because of a number of reasons: 1. It's almost 3am and I'm hella sleepy; 2. I'm so sleepy I forgot the second reason; 3. oh, yeah, because this is my first blog!

It's still ironic. As much as I burn my friend's ears off about so many things, love, work, Islam, travel, literature, magazines, being 25, marriage, marriage, marriage...the words are like, nah, man, we aint leaving your head, we ain't going out there!

But, atleast let me explain my url name: well, 'Honey, I Love' is a book of poetry that I fell in love with as a child who practically lived in the library. The poetry expresses the democratic love that children often experience. The narrator's poetry reflects on things like, the softness of her mothers arm; trying on her mothers coat and purse and feeling so pretty; 'getting down' with the Earth Wind & Fire and the Jackson 5; jumping double dutch and rhyming to the beat of the rope hitting the ground, and many other things. I definely saw myself reflected in this book as a young girl; the narrator and I certinaly had the same musings and according to the illustrations in the book, we looked the same, too: earth toned complextion and a shiny black afro - she was me.

I'll be back, though. I have a feeling this is going to be fun...