February 9

Robservations | Me, Dad & Jazz

Hey maaaaan, Rob Lee here. So as I mentioned in my post about Charles Mingus, I’ve gotten more into jazz. My dad, the original Lord Lee, I’m not sure if he has the nobility that I have – I may have been more of a nominal title – you know, like a doctor with no normal training. Let’s call him General Lee – naw that’s no good – he’d get that Robert E. Lee thing – which tormented his early years. Which he hated. Let’s go with proto-Lord Lee (PLL) for segmentation purposes. PLL, Rudy and I worked together at Verizon as janitors. This is the same Verizon where many of the early episodes of Robcast where recorded – specifically the ones with Torin.

Anywho, on that ride from the mean streets of Baltimore city to Hunt Valley we’d be covered in the jazzy jazz – that’s close to jizz – we’d listen to music. Specifically, Morgan State University’s WEAA 88.9 radio station. I thought it was corny and thought it boring. I didn’t get it. Like I’m pro-black but in a nuanced way – I don’t like typical shit, stereotypes and so on – many of these stereotypes are strengthen and used for financial gain from the actual people who are victimized by it. I cringe at shit like this but I’m very into people of color. Jazz is super black, black people making their rules, their music and being great – I recognize that, then I did not.

Back to the music, so Gary Ellerbe seemed like a nice guy and a qualified host – I just didn’t have anything for him or the music. I was too young, not seasoned enough. I wanted to get it but it’s that thing of you have to not like what your parents like I suppose. PLL loves jazz music – strangely my dad and I have similar musical tastes. I like The Doors, Santana and Gil Scott-Heron. He grew up to their music and, in a way, so did I. Conversely, my dad likes Kanye West, I feel responsible for this. I think when I was a kid my dad shaded my musical tastes – he described Wu-Tang Forever as just a bunch of niggas whining. That cut me deep and may, unconsciously, have triggered my shading of a whole genre of music.

Interestingly, I liked jazzy hip-hop or jazz rap that was a constant in the 90’s like A Tribe Called Quest, The Roots (shout our Questlove – we share a birthday ) and so on. I was exposed to jazz music – my dad isn’t great with computers so one exercise he’d do is him sending me a list of artists or songs to download – it would all be jazz – my fake-nemesis. I would begrudgingly download it, place it on a flash drive, and deleting it from my hard drive, never listening to it. I cut the jazz out like a cancer. So, moving forward to recent days, I was hit hard by the jazz bug. I would bond with my dad using the music as a soundtrack. I feel this is something PLL knew was coming and he is thrilled that it’s happening now. Jazz is freedom, it’s black, emotional and deep. Now I can firmly say sans pretension that Thelonious Monk, of which I enjoy a beer named after, Charles Mingus and John Coltrane are artists on my iPod. That’s no early feat.

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February 25

Robservations: Artists, Money, Authenticity

What’s slapping, Cats & Kittens? Here’s are a few thoughts created out of weeks of frustration and ponderance.

If we celebrate artists for putting their particular feelings (sadness, happiness for instance) into their work and we concede that artists are sensitive about their shit. Passion makes the best projects, art or whatever. Create when you’re compelled to. You may be mad or sad or happy – create something – you emotions are your director. Some artists best critical work is when they were at their lowest – Mary J. Blige for instance. Why do we judge them for being angry, frustrated or petulant about that same are or moreover as an individual? Emotions are emotions and they’re not here for your consumption and ridicule (snarky meme makers – you’re so clever). When you have emotions on failing to reach a goal – like Cam Newton in Superbowl 50. Imagine, if you worked hard to achieve something and then didn’t – but instead of processing it like a regular person you have to have sponsors and newspeople urge you to answer questions on how you feel while they’re dissecting you syllable count. That shit is weird – so because he makes some money his feelings are up to our interpretation? All are emotions and emotions are a spectrum- I suppose those aren’t the pretty emotions – those aren’t monetizeable emotions, those emotions are too real.

When it comes to how we treat people who make money – we lessen their humanity – like the human condition is remedied with money. Sure money makes things easier, I’m not delusional but we need to reexamine how we look at money. Money is a lie – value and such I accept but this idea of money is flawed. Notice when there’s something you love – let’s say rapping – you’re free to express things however you like – as soon as you get on and start making money – you’re a starving artist so you make concessions and others who essentially own you are restricting your freedom, your art. It cheapen what you do. Think also of how things, once they become monetized, it gives people or ideas a say, a stake – focus groups, lawyers and non-artists are involved because you – as the artist – are told you should be making money for this. Even athletes, Vince Carter comes to mind – you love shooting hoops or whatever and then if you ascend to making serious money suddenly you’re complacent and “not hungry” – your passion is gone, your artistry suffers, desire hidden expenditure. When money is involved, anything great seems to suffer and we’re conditioned with this idea of this is how it has to be. Remember how cool Youtube was before commericials? 

We don’t value authenticity – we say we do. “He’s real.” “She’s real.” That’s contrived, false. We value someone who communicates something that we find palatable. When it’s TOO real – remember the truth hurts and isn’t always pretty – it’s quickly ridiculed, mocked and swept away as someone’s crazy ramblings. That’s what we look at as real. We allow these behind the scenes, in a subconcious way, tell us that “this” is acceptable, that this is “real”. Notice that people who say “real things” are saying things that are generally, dare I write universally accepted, common sense.  It’s very weird.

What are your thoughts about anything I’ve written here? I envision this as a learning and sharing opportunity. I don’t have the answers – these are only my flawed thoughts. Pardon the errors and brevity here.

Always,

Rob Lee

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