Circa 2007 Scheme Magazine
In 2007 this was the official site of Scheme Magazine, an online magazine that served as a catalyst to educate, inspire, and assist current and future hip-hop communities.
The content below is from the site's archived pages.
Scheme Magazine “You choose”
To change the way our current and future hip-hop generation examines the world outside their doorstep.
Scheme, an online magazine that will serve as a catalyst to educate, inspire, and assist current and future hip-hop communities on the path towards self identity, open mindedness and CRITCIAL thought regarding social, economic, and political happenings that have historically taken place and are currently on-going. This webzine will contain a nucleus of handpicked talented writers who will give context and comprehension to those internal and external aforementioned aspects of today’s and future hip-hop communities. Using platforms consisting of interviews, podcasts, editorials, and artistic expression, Scheme will be the hip-hop medium that is formed at the intersection of conscious influential media, i.e. National Public Radio (NPR) meets allhiphop.com.
Some 2007 Posts
Jose Mertz: the Art of Zen
Mar 4, 2007 – by Blacksmit
Jose Mertz is an artist, born and raised in Queens, New York. In some circles he was picked on other circles like magnet schools in Miami he was looked at as Captain America. Jose had a lot of anger inside as a youth which lead him to study Zen and as his teacher told him his discipline shows in his work. You can tell a lot about a person by their signature. Jose’s signature reads forward, moving, individual thinker. With a style all of his own he was picked up by fashion line Parish Nation, and for this 26 year old the world is unfolding before his hand.
Scheme: When did you first realize that you had a talent for drawing?
Jose Mertz: Probably elementary school, I used to chill with my boy Ray and he’s still my boy to this day and we’ve always been competitive. He was into drawing breasts and muscles exploding, and I was always trying to top him. I think it was in the fourth grade and my art teacher was like, “your pretty good.” and from there my teacher told my mom that I should try out for a magnet school. From there it was a wrap I just kept drawing.
Scheme: When did you get your first big break, when did you get recognized?
Joes Mertz: I would say that one teacher and her name was Ms. Sydney in elementary school. It’s hard to say because what I think might be big to me might not be big to everybody else. After I had finished college I actually started studying Zen, and really started getting involved in eastern philosophy. A well known Zen teacher really took notice to the hand quality of my drawings and was like, “I can tell that you meditate and that you’ve been meditating for a while.” I was like, “How can you tell?”, l and he said, “I can tell by the hand quality of your drawing.” From there the conversation went further to psychology and all kinds of other stuff which was for me was a big deal, because he can read into the lines and he was into calligraphy and how you signature your name a person can tell a lot about you.
Scheme: How did you get involved with Zen, what made you go that route?
Jose Mertz: Anger bro (laughs) I was angry! Actually I had studied abroad my junior year of school and my sister asked me if I wanted to join a meditation class and I knew nothing about it. I just went to support my sister. Actually I wasn’t interested in just Zen, it was Buddhism in general. I wouldn’t consider myself a Buddhist but it made sense to me you know. I started reading all this mythology and different deities and stuff like that, and the Zen resonated for me because it cut through all the fluff, it was like be here in the moment now, cut out the past and the future, as well as the probability, and for me it made the most sense and it’s pretty much embedded in my life.
Scheme: Where does the drive come from to create art?
Jose Mertz: From jellyfish, to people riffing in the street, it has a pretty broad range, but I also get inspired by music. I listen to Roy Ayers, Massive Attack, and on the art side I like to look at a lot of contemporary artists like Matthew Richie, Inca, Damon Hurst and then a lot of old school cats. Right now I’m doing the fashion stuff and I still look to those dudes for inspiration because I’m relatively new to the fashion stuff.
Scheme: What’s in store for you this year regarding your work?
Jose Mertz: I’m thinking about putting out a small book because right now most people are seeing what I’m doing clothing wise. Personally I’m trying to do more shows and galleries. Everything is still unfolding as we speak, nothing is really set in stone. I haven’t had a solo show yet and I’m trying to smash it with that.
Scheme: Did you ever get picked on as a kid because you liked to draw? In school you had your cliques, the jocks, the nerds, the cool cats who had all the latest gear, what was that experience like for you as a kid?
Jose Mertz: It’s funny, it depends what type of crew your around. One year I was hanging out with my sister and she was on the drill team and she hung around the football players and I was her nerdy brother on the side who would draw pictures (laughs). The girls would be like, “oh your little brother he’s so cool.”, but then I’d turn the page and they’d be back to the football game, and I was just trying to get in with the girls you know (laughs). I went to this magnet school called New World in Miami, it’s this art school, and forget it, if you know how to draw your like Captain America over there. You were like the all-star football dude. So I definitely got picked on but in other circles I got a lot of love.
Scheme: So what does Jose Mertz want to achieve individually in other words what is your dream?
Jose Mertz: My dream, (laughs) that’s crazy.
Scheme: Is that cliché, is that corny! (laughs)
Jose Mertz: You know what it is, to go back to the Zen thing, you kind of have to question what is a dream all together. I’m not laughing from a point of ha-ha-ha it’s funny but from a deeper laugh like dude…
Scheme: You have no idea!
Jose Mertz: (Laughs) Yeah like I had a dude look at me straight in the eye out in the forest in a traditional Japanese setting and ask me that, “like what is a dream?” They call that a co-on, like it’s a simple question but it has a lot of chunk to it. Basically my dream is to put my art out there and have it in people’s lives, and for people to know what it is and to enjoy it. I also try to bring a lifestyle of people I relate with, I put out a podcast on my website www.leemer.org because I think music plays a major role in people’s lives. The fashion too, I mean I went to San Francisco recently and I’m new to this fashion stuff but I saw these dudes wearing the hoodies and the hoodies made them feel real hardcore. It’s cool for me to see the little sprinkles I provide in the world.
Scheme: So describe your affiliation with Parish Nation.
Jose Mertz: My homeboy C. Lamont Walk, he was working with these dudes at Enyce and these guys worked at Mecca before and a whole bunch of other well know brands. Watts and I have known each other since high school, we used to always paint and chill together, but I got into contemporary art and he got into the fashion. I hollered at him to do an art show because I was curating art shows at the time with a company that I started called www.gildlilies.com.Anyway, he hollered at me one day because I he hired some freelance dudes. People are feeling the hand drawn pieces because that’s what people are feeling right now, they want stuff that is original and not duplicated or a variation of someone else’s stuff. So they hollered at me and said they needed this drawing and were like how fast do you think you can knock it out? I told them to give me a weekend and it was a hand drawing of different hip hop icons like Biggie and cats doing willies and they loved it and they gave me a really great response and they kept giving me freelance work and the relationship just kept developing with me and these guys and boom they offered me a job and I’m all up in the group now.
10 Minutes with M-1 of Dead Prez
Jun 29, 2007 – by Dale Coachman, Photos by Shannon Evans
Whenever Hip Hop and Politics meet they appear to have an allergic reaction. Hip hop artists even the “conscious” of hip hop artists make overt political statements when it comes to the current Bush Administration or any other civil unjustness, but what bothers me is when artists are asked the question are they political their immediate response seems to always be, “No, or I’m not a politician.” Maybe it’s for fear of losing a certain status, corporate sponsorship or they’re own livelihood, but the truth in the matter is there are politics in everything; all the way down to who is picked to be the next American Idol, what’s played on the radio and what CNN, FOXNews, and the New York Times decide to inform the people about.
Dead Prez is a group that does not fear what comes from the idea of sacrificing for the bigger cause which for one half of the duo M-1 is freedom. I had the opportunity to sit down with M-1 at a political event in Washington, DC to discuss how it felt to be in the presence of the government and to be in the Capitol buildings and hear what those walls could say if they could talk.
Scheme: What was it like being inside the capital building for the first time?
M-1: It felt like that old White bureaucracy, establishment. It felt so much in the way of ruling class oppression. The walls were wide and you could tell that much miscarriage of justice had taken place here. I was just happy to be able to holla at them.
Scheme: What has it been like coming to DC and experiencing driving past buildings like the CIA, FBI, the Pentagon because for me these buildings comprise a bunch of false truths; what was that like for you?
M-1: It was much like being at the State Capitol in Tallahassee (Florida) that me and Stic (Man) started organizing, it felt the same except more engrained and more institutionalized. We’ve been fighting this same ugly beast that rears its head in every city. We started in Tallahassee and I’ve fought this same head in Springfield, IL, Chicago, IL, Oakland, CA, Wichita, KS, Philadelphia, PA-you name it it’s happened.
“I’ve been experiencing dueling with the beast, I think we have to. Our leadership has learned that. I’ve seen Malcolm do it Stokley Carmichael (Kwame Toure) and I’ve seen so much of our leadership able to express clear leadership objectives in the face of trickery because that’s what it is.”
Scheme: When did you first create your worldview and perspective?
M-1: I was influenced, my political education was influenced by what was left from the Black Panther Organization and the best organizers who picked up the pieces. Willie Mukasa Ricks and Enua Injerry and I learned indirectly from Fred Hampton Sr. Deputy Chairman of the Black Panther Party in Chicago, IL who became my mentor in many ways.
Scheme: I watched you on Fox News and what was it like going into a set-up in which the media was going to twist to make it seem like they were in the right?
M-1: I’ve been experiencing dueling with the beast, I think we have to. Our leadership has learned that. I’ve seen Malcolm do it Stokley Carmichael (Kwame Toure) and I’ve seen so much of our leadership able to express clear leadership objectives in the face of trickery because that’s what it is. The media is smoke and mirrors and they want to create the illusion of legitimacy in a world when the reality is that their bankrupt and they don’t have it and I don’t do it for them, I do it for our people. I primarily don’t even communicate with them; they could never get a message from me they would have to go through DaveyD.com.
Scheme: Do you ever wake up in the morning and say to yourself “I’m tired” and not tired in the sense of lack of sleep but exhausted and mentally drained and you begin to sound like Fannie Lou Hamer where you are, “sick and tired of being sick and tired.”?
M-1: Yeah, Fannie Lou Hamer was essential to the struggle even here in Washington, DC. That phrase is literally tattooed in my brain because when I met Sister Assata who is our hero she explained the concept of a reluctant revolutionary. She basically said our highest interest is not to fight but we are forced into this position because we are warriors at heart and we are faced with oppression so we become this reluctant visionary and that’s where the concept of being tired is because of the job that we know we must do but its so much of what we really want to be doing but can’t be doing.
“To the sistas who can’t hear that message know that the brothas are sincere. The truest love is going to be the love that we develop in the struggle for freedom for one another.”
Scheme: If you had 10 or 5 points how would you begin to initiate what you just stated regarding a revolution?
M-1: It would be the RGB Code (Red, Black & Green)
1) No Snitching: We don’t deal with our oppressor in anyway possible as much as we can. All snitches don’t where uniforms.
2) Each One Teach One
3) Protect yourself, your family and your community at all times.
4) Be organized
5) Be productive and that’s the RBG Code.
Scheme: What do you say to the young women of color who have this image of them put on television that says if a guy has a nice car in some money you should get with him? What do you say to the woman who knows that there is more than that but doesn’t see it?
M-1: Everything is clouded by oppression. The search for love, understanding, health, family, economic stability is all clouded by exploitation of oppression. It’s hard to find that when every moment is an emergency or alert mode. To the sistas who can’t hear that message know that the brothas are sincere. The truest love is going to be the love that we develop in the struggle for freedom for one another.
Scheme: Before it’s all said and done what do you want to accomplish here on earth?
M-1: Our highest aspiration is freedom and we won’t compromise it. We pick up from the footsteps of those who were assassinated and who were attempting to carry out the mission that’s what and where I am. The ultimate mission is liberation for our people-true liberation and self-determination and anything short is a failure. I can’t be satisfied by gold trinkets and materialism or the high life.
Scheme: What are some of the craziest things you’ve heard from a record company when you present yourself to them?
M-1: It’s a general non-connection that we can read before they can ever get to the point where they can say something that is offensive directly. It generally comes after we sign the contract and theirs a marriage and we’re debating on the points of our attack or presentation to the people and that’s when the most absurd comments come out. Ultimately it’s censorship, when somebody has something to say the thing that would violate that most would be not being able to say it.
Stacy Epps: the Art of an Emcee
Jun 28, 2007 – by Simóne Banks
Controlled art besmirches artists’ identities.
A true artist knows who they are and their convictions are displayed through their music. When it comes down to artist representation, outer depiction is reflected from an inner experience. In other words, what’s flowing in both mentally and spiritually will determine the value of your lyrical flow. “With me it’s all about reality, being down to earth and knowing that we all share so many experiences and emotions. Through our shared reality we can come together and unite to make positive changes in society. That is why I dedicate my life to the art of emceeing, because I am a messenger of light and love and hope that I can touch even a few people,” this being the manifesto of Stacy Epps.
Who is she? She’s the new voice of hip hop. A female icon that brings lyrical value yet with a respected image, she still has to experience the struggle to stand firm as a female emcee. “Unfortunately, the women are not put in the forefront and have to struggle to get heard and get signed within the industry. Historically, labels do not see women as profitable & therefore do not sign them. But many female emcees have shown the potential we have to create universal music that all people can enjoy. We need positive role models now more than ever, and especially women; people that our young girls can look up to and hear speak their mind. The current image of women in Hip Hop in the commercial industry is as “groupies” or very sexual scantily clad models. This is our dominant position right now. I say this to mean that you will see more women in this role than you will in the role as a female emcee or leader within the movement.”
Can you name five female emcees? Most rattle off the typical three, Lil Kim, Foxy Brown and Trina, but when you suggest naming female emcees that have contributed something positive to the culture, is when you really see people begin to struggle. “Queen Latifah, MC Lyte, Roxanne Shante, Salt n Pepa, Lauryn Hill, Bahamadia, Mystic and countless others have shown the ability of dope female emcees to shine and make their voices heard. This is more important now than ever. I know so many dope female emcees that just don’t get the attention they deserve like Bahamadia, Invincible, Mystic, Emoni Fela, Tiye Phoenix and more.”
In the midst of hip hop, representation is definitely controlling the growth of our present generation, and in regards to female emcees, their image reflects a lot more than on themselves. There is a responsibility that female icons have. Who will lead and where are the values we see coming from? “It is on us as female emcees to make this an issue and raise our voices to contest this series of events and not just let it continue on. I am committed to be a part of this effort.”
Epps was introduced to hip hop at an early age. Like many, she was attracted to the freedom and strength of the culture. It was the expression that gave a voice to the community many artists’ spoke of. Issues such as gang violence, poverty, education and family life allowed the culture to become a very precocious community. “When I was younger, I was drawn to the strength of the vibe and culture, the ‘freshness’ and the unique sound. There was a freedom in Hip Hop that existed nowhere else. Hearing emcees like KRS 1, MC Lyte, Queen Latifah, I was inspired by the message, the words, and the style. I knew this was a higher level of communication. Very spiritual and a direct response to the difficulties our communities were facing due to so-called “reganomics” i.e. crack, guns etc. It showed me that we had a voice and could speak to the people about exactly how we were feeling and that people would listen. It had such a pride and good energy towards it you couldn’t help but be drawn to this music. The lyrics man, wow, they really moved me, and from then on… well… it’s been on!”
Her focus is on the most high and her drive is nestled within. Her talent could be determined as natural though she’s insatiable when it comes to knowledge and sharing it. Despite the fact that she hasn’t been in the game long, she’s worked with many artists and producers alike that all have the respect from the music community. “I have been blessed to work with some very, very talented individuals worldwide. Scienz of Life really groomed me on learning the indie biz and the art of recording and doing for self. I am forever indebted to them for the strong foundation they shared with me. I was on their “Project Overground” album on about 4 tracks (some of my earliest work! Then Lil Sci and I created the group Sol Uprising and we did an album called “Sol Power.” I also did a track with the Prophetix a dope group from ATL. I was blessed to work with MF Doom on the King Gheedorah “Take me to Your Leader” album also featured on the album he did with Madlib, the Madvillain Project. Worked with OH NO (Madlib’s little brother) on his album “The Disrupt”. Did a lot of work with Wildchild, we have a project in the works right now. I recorded songs with Madlib and also worked with Jneiro Jarel on his Dr. Who Dat “Beat Journey” project and also his upcoming album. I work very closely with Apex a dope producer out of D.C., he did like 4 of the tracks on my upcoming project. I recorded some songs with Georgia Anne Muldrow, the gifted and talented Muhsinah as well, she produced a song on my album. Flying Lotus produced a joint on the project. Goodness, there are so many dope people I worked with, I guess I’ll just start listing; Bilal Salaam, S1, Pharcyde, Baatin, Cris Prolific, Invincible, Finale, DJ PudgEmcee, Amdex, Jazz Liberators, Bembe Segue, Emoni Fela & the Epsilon Project. I’m sure I’m forgetting someone, but all are fresh!”
Upcoming is her first solo project entitled Eppisode 1: The Awakening that is expected to drop winter 2007. No mainstream diplomacy, just pure hip hop to enlighten the listener. In her words, hip hop is alive and flourishing; on the independent tip however. “Hip Hop is evolving like every other form of music. I feel that the whole “hip hop is dead” thing was a big publicity stunt. Although I think it was healthy for us to sit back and reflect on the art form and see its current contributions to society. Yes, on the mainstream/commercial/major label side of things Hip Hop or should I say rap (that’s a whole other debate) is polluted with a lot of negativity and lack of creativity and progressiveness. But this is what happens when art is controlled by money, because at the end of the day these major labels have to make their bottom line, they have to pay their CEO $500,000 to $1 million/year… they have to pay their bills… so for them that is a very controlling factor. But on the independent side, I see Hip Hop alive and well. I see fresh talent worldwide flexing their skills and contributing to Hip Hop culture. There are so many positive community organizations working in the name of Hip Hop. So it’s definitely not dead. But the evolution is coming, music and culture is an ever-changing entity, so it is important to embrace the changes that arise. I see music moving to amazing new heights, an amalgamation of all types of sounds and the destruction of all rules and boundaries lines to create mind-blowing music for all people…soon come.”
Being influential isn’t easy. Sometimes we influence others unknowingly. On a recent trip to South Africa, Epps was able to get first hand the experience of seeing how influential she really is. “Wow, that trip truly changed my life!! I have never had such a beautiful experience as I had visiting Mother Africa. I was blessed with the opportunity to travel to the homeland and it still affects me so deeply. I look back on that trip with love and still miss it. To actually be on a land that was HOME for people truly. People were truly connected to the land in that they knew their ancestors had walked that earth. There was a deep spiritual connection to nature and the incredible abundance of nature in that space. I was taken aback at how huge Hip Hop was out there and how much of the independent music they were into. It amazed me that my first night at a Hip Hop club, a young brother came up to me and was like, “excuse me are you Stacy Epps?” I was truly blown away!! But it really showed me how far our music travels and the importance of our voices throughout the world. This music we create is a serious thing!”
Slum Village: Still Standing
Jun 27, 2007 – by Dale Coachman
A signature sound, Slum Village, something that you knew you could expect a sound thanks in most part to J Dilla that would be different from anything you’ve ever heard before or after. Drama has followed this group from beginning to end which has always lead fans to wonder, what will happen next? From the departure of Baatin who made a quick cameo on a Black Milk track called “Action” to the passing of Jay Dee, to the constant record company shuffle Slum Village’s sound and lyrics with the addition of Elzhi has always found a way to be heard. So the question is what’s next because a legacy has been created and now the torch must be carried, with the likes of Phat Kat, Guilty Simpson, DJ House Shoes and Black Milk they are in the process of keeping that light on so where does Slum Village fit?
Scheme: I really hate to ask this question but how is the group doing since J Dilla passed?
T3: I mean you know it’s a tragedy not just for us but for music but for personal that’s my man, I’ve been known him for 20 years. It’s definitely sad when you lose a friend outside of the music so we’re dealing with it. We’re doing a tribute album to Dilla with his moms so you can look for that coming soon-it’s with all Dilla beats that we chose, exclusive sh*t that nobody has. Trying to give back as much as we can to a lot of benefit concerts and trying to give back even to Lupus which is the disease which he passed from so its all that, we’re just trying to make good music and keep his name out there.
Elzhi: As far as Dilla he laid down the groundwork for the group and I feel like he was one of the forefathers of neo-soul. As far as how we’re going we’re just going to keep representing Dilla and keep giving you that Slum Village sound that ya’ll know and love. It might not be exactly the same all the time, we like to change up and we know a lot of fans would hate to see us grouped into a box because their so used to us doing different things and being innovative. See we’re going to keep that peace that Dilla provided for the group inside of our music always. As far as Dilla he was one of the best to ever do it, you have people from Pharrell (Williams) appreciating his talent, Dr. Dre all the way down to Sa-Ra, Erykah Badu and Common. Across the board everybody appreciated what he did and I feel like his legacy is being carried on by people who were influenced by him but most importantly its going to be carried on by SV because this is where it started from and we don’t want people to ever forget what he put into this world and into this music because it was real.
Scheme: What can we expect from the next Slum Village album and where can we see you perform live?
Elzhi: It’s basically more style, more lyrics, more of that Slum that you know and love but we’re going to keep it diverse and its not going to be like anything you heard on the last one. In case you (the people) didn’t know, we had a album that came out called Slum Village and it was self titled and a lot of people don’t really know that it was out like that but for those that did know it was one of our best albums along with the first album people know and love which was Vol.2. Slum Village is about to be overseas in July, we’re still on this run with Phat Kat and illa J ( J Dilla’s younger brother) and the next place we’re going is Boston. We’re working, we have a Remy (Martin) campaign going on where we make appearances at different clubs and we plan on putting three albums out this year so I’m not going to speak on the other two as well as my solo album so we’re going to keep that music bumpin! My solo project I’ve been holding off because I’ve been wanting Slum Village to get to a certain point because without T3 and the group…I wouldn’t say I would never have a voice but they made it to where I had a voice quicker than if I didn’t hook up with them so now that we’re getting back on our feet I’m about to do this solo album its about to be classic, JakeOne is doing beats, Pete Rock, Black Milk, DJ Dez, Vitamin D and a couple of other names.
T3: I have my T3 and I’m also putting out solo artists and putting out soul music. I’m working with this young guy names Al young guy, plays keyboard, sings and he’s from DC. I’m going to put out Dirty District Soul which is like up and coming soul artists that I like. I’m more so working on the new Slum album which is the same stuff just more harder with more edge. We’re headed to Japan, Brazil and Europe and then we will come back and do the states. Hopefully we can finish the album in the next couple of months or so and work with Pete Rock so.
“I mean if it was up to me I would’ve quit years ago but now that the expectations are so high I have to keep the legacy going and that’s why we brought out illa J, we want to keep the legacy and real music going and keep the cycle going. We have a couple more albums to do and some venues to connect and a couple of more people to reach and that’s why we’re doing it right now.”
Scheme: I see ya’ll in the car commercials how’s that going?
T3: I mean we we’re in the car commercials last year and they have TI this year, but it was love. We got free cars and exposure and now we’re doing stuff with Remy Martin and we do a party every Tuesday in Detroit for June and July and that’s love as well.
Scheme: Did you ever expect to make it this far?
T3: My expectation was high, and more so in the later years my expectation got lower because things were moving slower than I expected them to be and now I feel like we have no choice after the passing of Dilla to keep the legacy alive. I mean if it was up to me I would’ve quit years ago but now that the expectations are so high I have to keep the legacy going and that’s why we brought out illa J, we want to keep the legacy and real music going and keep the cycle going. We have a couple more albums to do and some venues to connect and a couple of more people to reach and that’s why we’re doing it right now. One of our most slept on Cd’s was the Slum Village self titled album and because me my favorite CD’s that we did we’re Vol.1 and Vol.2. So Trinity was an experimental album for us. We were going through a lot of turmoil and that’s when I became the leader of the group and it was hard for me because I was like a background guy and I was trying to be the leader but it was kind of thrown upon me and I had no choice, so it was like an experimental album. We had some love and made some joints on there but I didn’t know how it was going to come out. When we did the self titled joint that’s when me and El gelled together as a group.
“The hardest part of the industry is the recognition and getting the love, you want to constantly feel that but for us it’s been a constant struggle we’ve dealt with a lot of situations.”
Scheme: So explain the process of making music being in the studio and being on the road.
T3: It’s just at different times, right now we’re enjoying the road because we’re on the road but I love the studio too. It just depends on how I’m feeling at the time. It’s not one more than the other, its all music to me.
Scheme: What’s the hardest part of this industry?
T3: The hardest part of the industry is the recognition and getting the love, you want to constantly feel that but for us it’s been a constant struggle we’ve dealt with a lot of situations. From group members leaving to group members passing and that’s the hardest part about this process. Dealing with this drama in the public eye and that’s the hardest part of this industry and at the same time all the blessings we get from it we have to take that with it.
Elzhi: When Dilla left they brought me in and then Baatin left and then it was just me and T3 so we maintained that by working hard on the shows and working hard on the chemistry and making sure we came up with a nice formula for the albums and I feel like it’s really shining through the music now.
Top 10 Sleeper Films of 2007
Dec 21, 2007 – by Chad Elliot
As we head into the upcoming winter months the Oscar buzz, is unseasonably low this time of year. This is due to the lack of quality films made in 2007. Unlike 06’ which brought us the likes of the Departed, Little Miss Sunshine, and Babel, just to name a few, 07’ focused more on big budget action flicks and sequels, from Transformers to Spiderman 3 to Shrek the third and Die Hard 4.0, this year was more about special effects and less about film quality and dialogue. However, in the midst of it all, Scheme has forged a list for you die hard, no pun intended, moviegoers with a few must see’s. I preface this article by adding, this is not an Oscar Review, it is a list of quality films with a few notable Oscar worthy performances.
Lake of Fire
Written and directed by Tony Kaye, the same director that created 1998’s critically acclaimed American History X is back at it again. 17 years in the self financing making, Kaye’s Lake of Fire is a documentary about the politics of abortion. Known for his gritty style and realistic images, Lake of Fire paints a graphic depiction of one of the strongest issues dividing modern day American society. Just as in American History X, Kaye doesn’t allow for the traditional protagonist antagonist scripted movie, yet shows both sides perspectives allowing the viewer to make their own decisions. This is all displayed by extreme close ups and his decision to portray the movie in completely black and white film, symbolizing the gray area between right or wrong. The film seesaws between pro-lifer and pro-choicer with scenes showing heated rallies centered around abortion clinics as well as the actual procedure, which definitely may pose to graphic for some. From discussion of the Roman Catholic Church to homosexuality to the 1973 abortion landmark case Roe v. Wade, this is definitely a film that will spark both thought and conversation.
No Country For Old Men
This standout thriller displays the power of greed and consequences to the inadequacies of our selfish decision making. Set in the 1980’s, a hunter (Joss Brolin) shockingly comes across a undiscovered crime scene of massacred bodies, a large stash of heroin, and a brief case containing over $2 million dollars. Without a much hesitation, he quickly grabs the money and heads back to his trailer home to his wife, where he thinks is living is sure to follow. However, this could not be further from the truth, as ruthless killer (Javier Bardem) and local county sheriff (Tommy Lee Jones) are quickly in pursuit of the cash. This movie goes ranges from dark comedy, to drama, to mystery all in a matter of shots to guarantee a completely entertaining and suspenseful ride.
Tony Gilroy’s Michael Clayton is a sophistically written tale of good and evil that portrays a character that struggles with every human emotion before our very eyes. Michael Clayton (George Clooney), is a “fixer,” at a huge law firm. Basically anytime type of mess the firm gets into, it is his responsibility to get them out of by any means necessary. Naturally this causes Mr. Clayton to at times resort to unethical practices. Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson) is also a well known lawyer at the firm who is on the opposite end of a major case that will effect the company. Sent to smooth things over with Edens, Clayton is presented with a startling discovery about the lawsuit and is forced to make a decision which will put him in the ultimate compromise. This is Tony Gilroy’s directorial debut which he also wrote. Other films which Mr. Gilroy either wrote the story of screenplay to are: Armageddon, all three Bourne’ films, as well as Devil’s Advocate.
Reign Over Me
Reign Over Me, is a feel good movie, that finally allows America to start to cope with the tragedy of 9/11 that still effect so many of us. Set 5 years after 9/11, former college roommates Charlie and Alan, played by Adam Sandler and Don Cheadle, respectively, incidentally run into each other on a street corner. Charlie is trying to put his life back together after his family is killed in the terrorist attacks and Alan is struggling with blending work and family. The film definitely has moments that no one wants to relive, however, the overall story was both warm and empathetic. The film was written and directed by Mike Binder. Unlike United 93 and World Trade Center, this film was not forced and could not have come at a better time.
Things We Lost in the Fire
This emotional drama deals with the very tough issue of love, loss and friendship. A recent widow (Halle Berry) invites her deceased husband’s often troubled best friend (Benecio Del Toro) to live with her and her two children. Battling a drug addiction, he turns his life around and helps the family cope with the loss of a father and husband as it deals with the loss of his best friend. Although on its surface Things We Lost in the Fire, promises to be a typical cliché vunerable women/male savior flick it honestly is not. Director Susanne Bier does a outstanding job dealing with the characters relationship. It could have easily turned into some silly cheesy love affair, however, both characters elect to keep each other at arms distance despite the urge to fill the void in both of their lives. Two very strong performances from both starring actors only add to this well told story.
Talk To Me
Based on actual events, Talk to Me, stars academy award winner Don Cheadle as 1960s radio icon Ralph Waldo “Petey” Greene. Convicted for armed robbery in 1960, Petey spent several years in Virginia’s Lorton Prison. It was there where he honed his disc jockey skills at Lorton’s work program playing records his grandmother sent him to fellow inmates. An early parole in 1969 sent Petey back on the streets where he landed a job as a morning show radio host on Washington D.C.’s WOL-AM radio. It was at radio station where the relationship was formed between Petey and radio producer Dewey Hughes (Chiwetel Ejiofor). The film is an illustration of Petey’s turbulent career. The film also displays how Petey became more than just a radio station personality, as it deals with the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968. This turn in the film shows how Petey kept the violence in D.C. down during this period, however, is career continued to take a turn for the worse as the movie continues.
Dan in Real Life
Dan in Real Life is a romantic comedy about single father of three girls who assumingly finally finds true love only to discover that his new interest is dating is younger brother. Steve Carell (Dan) gives a brilliant performance that once again, (Little Miss Sunshine), allows the audience to see the range of his acting skills. This film was impressive because unlike many modern day romantic comedies, it did not resort to any slapstick humor. As simple as the storyline may be, the film actually takes the viewer for a few surprising twist. With the exception of a few moments, this was a very smart script, that is genuinely funny.
American Gangster - Come on, it stars academy award winners Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe, and The RZA, nuff said!
Knocked Up - I know, I know, but trust me this movie was funny as hell and the dvd is even better.
A Mighty Heart - Taking nothing away from Angelina Jolie’s supposed standout performance, I couldn’t get over the fact that she is portraying a black women, oh yeah but she’s suppose to be light skinned lol, tragedy, Cleopatra all over again
Dec 20, 2007 – by Rakia Reynold
Yego: 21MC (21st Century Maroon Colony) is a concept streetwear company from San Francisco. Our goals are to make tropical wear and promote tropical resistance culture. Back in slavery days and even “after”, a Maroon was an escaped slave that refused to give up their African culture and be someone’s slave. There were Maroon colonies all over the Americas, In the West Indies, in the U.S., Brazil; pretty much any place Europeans brought slaves, there were Maroons to fight them.
To be a maroon is to be constantly confronted with the reality of survival. Black people today still know all about that. The development of a reborn maroon identity is the first step of survival in the 21st century. 21MC is that first step.
We make Tropical Wear garments for the urban Maroon Colonies of the 21st century. The patterns, rhythms, textures, and colors of Africa and Her diaspora, passed on to us by our ancestors, inform the way we create our collections and the way we wear ourselves on the streets. By combining ideas and symbols of the past with our visions of the future we illuminate the Afro-Frontier of tomorrow.
So each collection 21MC creates, tells of our rebellions on the plantations from yesterday, and our survival in the cities of the beast today. For us, the luxury of hesitation and the uneasy comfort of the plantation or the corner is (still) no longer affordable.
Scheme:How long has 21 Maroons been alive?
Emeka: In theory 21MC has been around for a while, but it was only a year ago or less that we were actually able to solidify it as one idea and focus.
After living in Africa and the West Indies, we just saw so many connections around the Afro-Triagle, the triangle first traced by the slave routes. One point in Africa, one point in the Americas, and one point in Europe. We came back and felt like we had to do this, had to kinda rethink what it meant to be black in the U.S. or in the UK or Cuba or wherever. We had to show this, its therapeutic for us. We wanted to share these ideas and help to build a new Maroon culture and for us to take pride in ourselves. It helps us stay sane in the U.S., the beast we call we ironically call home in the 21st century.
Scheme: Who are the creators behind 21 Maroons? Is it just you two? Is there a team?
Emeka: Yego and I run the label but we have a strong group of friends who support us and develop the concept through everyday life. As the brand and the ideas get bigger we want to continue to network with all kinds of folks, artists, musicians, record labels, writers: anyone who’s passion runs in tune with our own.
Scheme: Where can folks find you? On the web (specific boutique sites you may sell on) Instores?
Emeka:Soon you will be able to find 21MC in most major cities here and abroad including west Africa. We are really close to releasing our stock list but until then you can cop the fits directly from our website! www.21maroons.com But right now you can also find them in LDRS 1354 in Chicago, Laced Up in Seattle, Blackbird in Seattle, but we add store to our list weekly.
Scheme:Tell me how each of your personalities play into the collection?
Yego: Um, well damn, we’ve known each other since 4th grade, been friends since like 8th grade, worked together when we were 19-20. So, its really like we’re brothers now. Emeka is definitely the organizer of the “getting shit done” department, I might be the igniter of a lot the visual aspects, but its definitely a partnership where the two of us have to do a lot of different jobs.
Scheme: What kinds of techniques are used in your collection i.e. screenprinting etc.?
Emeka: We do everything! The most important part for our first collection was to “remix” some of the printing techniques and textile methods found in Africa. We did a lot of hand done design work mixed within a little production. All the care labels were all hand done and as well as the scarfs and hoodies we got coming out next collection!
Yego: Coming up we are gonna be hand-dyeing garments, using gold foil, embroidery, screen printing, also we have a lot of plans for accesories in the near future. Weaves and more dyes in the future fo sho!
Scheme: How does music and what kinds of music influence your designs?
Emeka: There wouldn’t be 21MC without music baby! Music has always been a important part of maroon life! Besides maroon life music is the main influence that make 21MC complete as a label. We wanna be putting out mixtapes with our shirts soon.
Yego: Yeah, Emeka’s right on, music is very central to 21MC’s ideas. The rhythm especially, it holds really important histories within it, so we can find out more about ourselves through the music our ancestors made. Lately, the kinda interesting connection between dub/djing/hip hop/punk has had us thinking in a very particular state of mind, we are really appreciating the creative renaissance that happened within dub to go on to create the two types of music that have been so influential to us: hip hop and afro-punk. Also, we been paying a lot of attention to dubstep/grime, crunk, baltimore bass, balie funk, soca, and of course new hip hop.
Scheme: What specific things inspires your design?
Yego: I will give you one of those list type answers: Ancestors, the Future, Nas, Black histories, The 54 countries in Africa, Cadillacs, M.I.A., the West Indies, the 2005 Paris youth riots, Afro-American religions, Official Tourist and Kamau Patton, 6th and Howard, Fillmore and McAllister, Dutty Boukman, Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Emory Douglass, Maroons…of course, George Jackson, Black Britain, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Coco Fusco, Black Uhuru, Big Youth, and Afro-Surrealism.
Scheme:How does current events or whats going on in the world influence your creativity?
Emeka: We pay attention to what’s going on to people in the world, especially people in the 2/3 world. Nowadays what happens in a ghetto in Caracas, Venezuela has effects in Lagos, Nigeria, which then reaches the pockets of Black britons or folks in Mississippi or wherever. But yeah, we try to keep our eyes open.
Scheme: Do you feel like 21 MC is a movement?
Yego: 21MC is just a very small concept company, but we are serious about building a new Maroon culture that’s about liberation.