Woke up this morning to the call of a rooster and bark of an asthmatic goat. We are in Senegal! Everyone warned us to NOT DRINK THE WATER. Well that wasn't a problem because this morning there was none! All running water was off in the neighborhood we're staying in. It's all good though. Thankfully we still have some electricity, which is why I'm able to write this. Our host Sineta has been great. She's really made us feel at home. She owns the small bed and breakfast that we're staying in. Today's been a light day. We spent the first half jet-lagged and the second half roaming the commercial area by foot. Speaking of foot, our taxi driver ran over mine when dropping us off! Thankfully I wasn't injured, and because I wasn't, Hasan proceeded to laugh his ass off about it...lol. It's ok though, because the astonishment on his face when we drove by a stray horse that was just chillin on a city block was priceless. You just don't see that in Jersey! The Dakar airport was an experience in itself. I would not recommend coming here without having someone pick you up. There are people waiting right outside the door to hustle you any way they can. We had a pickup, and even then 4-5 guys followed us the entire time, trying to get at our bags and spark conversation. The whole time we felt on guard, like at any time one of them might try to do something. Overall it's been a nice first day. Tomorrow we're heading to Goree Island, which is the last stop, and point of no return, for slaves leaving this region of Africa during the slave trade. I can't even begin to imagine what that's going to be like. We'll let you know tomorrow.
Peace and positive energies,
Woke up in the Motherland for the 1st time today from what was the best sleep i've gotten in a minute. For all of yall who know me, i don't sleep much. Last night we arived an hour before sunrise, stepping off the plane humidity in the air wrapped it's arms around me like a welcome home hug from Mama Africa herself. My second welcome was from the customs agent who wanted to opened my cd box and stopped mid-tear to say "We are all children of god, we are all one!" needless to say he wanted more than a flier as a souvenier so i passed him a promo cd an he let us go about our way. The 3rd welcome was from the cab drivers, all 50 of them lined up like a firing squad taking aim at whatever traveler or tourist crossed thier line of sight. If you think I'm overexaggerating please by all means take a trip to Dakar's airport and speak on it then.
"It's too damn early to go through all this b.s." said Jonathan the brother who met us at the airport during the middle of a taxicab turf argument that lasted for 5 minutes even after we had sat in the car. The cab ride wasnt the normal take me where i have to go type situation, all of my senses were on point, "i'm finally here" is all i could think. It's a homecoming my Mother has been telling me to take since she traveled to Senegal in '96. It's a blessing to be here, tomorrow Goree Island. -PEACE
Today was a day that will remain in my thoughts forever. There are certain things in life where even the best description will always fall short of adequate understanding. These things need to be seen and felt in order to be truly understood. Today was one of those days. We visited Goree Island, which is where many slaves would be inspected, traded, and imprisoned before leaving Africa forever. "The House of Slaves" on the island painted pictures for me that my history books never could. To sit in these cells where human beings where herded in like cattle, was like listening to the whispers of the innocent spirits that died in them. The emotions were real and overwhelming. The pain and suffering we often times see as in the past was suddenly brand new, and vivid. The cell windows, which were only about an inch or two wide, let in just enough sunlight to remind them of the freedom they didn't have. How many died in the childrens' cell? Young girls' breasts were examined so that as soon as they had developed, regardless of age, they could be moved into the adults' chambers to be sold. As I sat in the 4 foot high cell dedicated for those slaves that "resisted", my legs started to cramp after minutes. They spent months in there. Finally, there was "The Door of No Return". Once a slave passed through this doorway, they were either thrown to the sharks or taken away forever. I can't describe what it felt like standing in this doorway staring at the ocean. Part of me felt ashamed to be part of the human race. How could we do this to ourselves? Part of me thought about what a disgrace this time in history really was. I thought of all the Africans ripped from their homelands and treated like animals by both their own people, and the greedy, inhumane founding fathers we so often celebrate in America. I thought of my ancestors in India and the ones that were shipped off to work as indentured servants in Trinidad, Guyana, etc. Lastly, I thought of how much we could all come together as brothers and sisters, if everyone could stand in the shadows of history's mistakes together, and feel its pain as one. Only then, could we truly heal as one. Tomorrow is a new day. Peace.
Today left me with feelings of tremendous pain and God inspiring awe. The awe is from bearing witness to the strength my ancestors exibited to survive in order for me to be here, that is nothing short of a miracle. The pain is that most of my people do not see this sacrifice that was made, and the true living hell of enslavement our ancestors endured. If we truly overstood we would live differently. We are not, never have been, and never will be your or anyone's nigger.
If i could take every student i've worked with who felt like reading is a waste of time, every brother i have argued with over the use of the word nigger/nigga(however you wan't to spell it), every sister ashamed of her natural hair, & every one who ever said that slavery has been over for hundreds of years and Black people should stop talking about it, to "The Slave House" at Goree Island I would sit them in the holding pen and make them watch Johannes Mehserle pull the trigger that ended Oscar Grants life as clip one.
Then the verdict of him receiving 2 years for the cold blooded murder of another human being as clip two,
There were seperate cells where the babies and children were held so in the future little Emmette Till's & little girls who attended Birmingham Sunday schools would know there place. As i stood in rooms that would hold 25 to 30 up on a wall in a space that would even make a slum lord cringe, i thought of central booking, privitized prisons and PS 41 in Jersey City. A school built to resemble a prison, complete with the yard and trailors not so much unlike the county jail at Kearny.
Three 5ths of a human being.
America was built on the devaluing of Black life, it's peculiar institutions of slavery, Jim Crow, and racial profiling are weak attempts at justifying the unjust and washing Uncle Sam's hands of ethnic cleansing. Every day in America a Black man dies as result of another Black mans self hatred, Willie Lynch wrote that book on that one "my nigga" or should i say HIS NIGGER.
3,500 nautical miles away, the 1st step of the middle passage i was reminded of this. How fitting the day i reach Goree i learn of this verdict. Goree Island is one of the most beautiful places i have ever traveled, the homes are painted in vibrant colors that are complimented by an air brushed sky, a glowing yellow sun, & is surrounded by an aqau blue green ocean that has washed the blood of countless men and women tossed into it like trash. It's the ugly past that people of this island live with overcoming everyday and that same ugliness that is still showing it's face in the USA . The verdict shows us that our lives are still not equal in the United States but in order to demad the freedom, justice and equality we deserve we have to start demanding it of ourselves 1st.
Taxi cab 2,000 CFA, lunch 8,000 CFA, Rhyming till the studio shuts down due to a rolling black out... Priceless!
Working with musicians that love their craft and are professional about it is the shit!
Today we went to Jean-Peirre's studio in Dakar and spent the day working on a song that will be featured on a compilation album in Senegal. It started with a conversation about mixing traditional Senegalese singing with hip-hop, then Jean-Peirre played a drum track. The boom bap of it made the Jersey in me stand up and get into my bop, "thats IT right there", i didnt need to say any more. Watching Jean at the piano creating the rest of the track is what it must have been like to watch Mateese painting a blank canvas. I automaticlly thought of my day yesterday, Goree Island, the marketplace in Dakar, getting back to our room and learning about the Oscar Grant verdict. I thought about how many of our people have no idea of our history and how far from home we are mentally and spiritually as a people. I named the song "Prodigal Sun" beacuse our people don't remember our home, every other people have a homeland yet we as African Americans are like orphans beacuse we do not know our or have forgotten our Motherland. The chorus is sung in Wolof "Come home to the land of your Grandfather" and it moved me before i knew what the words meant, just the tone and inflection of the singers voice. He said he knew what he wanted to sing as soon as he heard my verses. It's a blessing to connect with anyone musically, to travel thousands of miles and connect the struggle with brothers and sisters from across the water in the Motherland that feel what i have to say is an amazing experiance. Allah U Akbar.
Stevie Wonder said "Music is a world within itself, in a language we all understand". Today brought that line to life for me. I got to bare witness to Jean-Pierre Senghor, who is nothing short of a musical genius. Hasan, Jean-Pierre, and a collection of Sengalese artists put together a song today that was half english and half Sengalese Wolof, but transcended both languages.
After the session, the guys dropped us home around midnight. We arrived hungry but the neighborhood was in a blackout. That's when it became evident how comfortable Hasan and I had become with life in Dakar. We began to roam around Dakar in a blackout looking for food. Just two days earlier we were on guard walking in the same neighborhood in broad daylight. Now we were laughing loudly in the dark streets like we were on our own block in NJ. Despite the overly aggressive, hustler mentality of the street vendors, we have come to realize that the people in Dakar are genuinely friendly people. We made our way to a 24 hour bodega to try and find some food since we hadn't eaten since lunch. When you're hungry, usually everything looks good. We roamed the 2 aisles for 15 minutes, like there had been 25 of them. There was nothing remotely appetizing. We were desperate. Hasan was staring at stale Sengalese lunch meat, and I was eyeing some warm fruit yogurt that was sitting on the shelves like it didn't need to be refridgerated. We ended up settling for pringles, snickers, and juice, the dream dinner for 10 year olds everywhere. We laughed more tonight then any other night in a long time.as we reminisced about everything thus far. It's only been 3 days and already this trip has had so many lasting moments. As I write this neither of us has slept yet, and we leave for Guinea-Bissau in about 3 hours. Chapter 2 begins...
The circumstances and coincidences so far this trip are crazy. On our flight to Guinea-Bissau, how do I just happen to sit next to the Chief Director of Agriculture for the whole country?!?!?! I'm starting to feel I'm in a movie script! We were in deep conversation the entire flight. He broke down his life story, how he left the country for college in the U.S, then decided to come back to Bissau to make a difference in his homeland. He gave the intricate details of the military and political landscape and the roots of the corruption that hinder the country's progress. He told me how Bissau's land is fertile enough to feed the whole country's population twice over, if the government would just invest properly in agricultural initiatives. He also described how China and European nations pay them a meager 8 million dollars a year, for the over 200 million in fish they outright steal from Bissau's waters. To get that much in depth knowledge from such an influential individual in the country you are visiting for the first time was a beyond a blessing!
I'm so glad to have been a fly on the wall for this day in Hasan's life. Our arrival and ensuing welcome was surreal on so many levels. I wouldn't feel right having anyone but him describe those first few hours after we landed. I can't believe this is only Day 4! Tomorrow we go to the school to teach the babies!
We arrived at the airport running off 2 hours of sleep and the 4 star gourmet feast of Pringles and Snickers bars. The salesman at the terminal must have known this might be their last opportunity to to sell us sunglasses and sim cards because as soon as the taxi pulled up they were opening the door with their pitches ready; sidenote props to the brother selling luggage locks at the door to the airport. After the regular process of checking the luggage and going through customs we are bussed out to our dual propeller plane that looked like something Indiana Jones fights Nazi's on. When we land in Guinea Bissau(1 of those landings you thank whatever you beleive in) the customs agents pull me to the side and tell me they have to go through my things. After 5 minutes of serious questioning in Portuguese about my cd's, fliers, and stickers one of the customs agents chimes in "Hasan Salaam?!?, I have seen you on the posters" from that moment on it stopped being an interigation and basically became an open offer for bribery. 5 cds to people in uniform later we were out of the Bissau airport and met by a car and a van both plastered with posters for the concert, and were taken to the home/recording studio of our hosts where the youth were painting banners with my logo on them as intricate as the tattoo on my right forearm with the same design. We got to break bread and our conversation spanned the spectrum, African politics, setting up sound equipment, the beauty of Bissau and its people, the many languages spoken at the table, Patrice Lamumba, and our plans for the event Saturday. Later on i asked Brian how many American Rappers come to Guinea Bissau he replied "None, you are the 1st one"
There's so much to talk about today. A day after being humbled by the outpouring of love from our arrival, we went to do the FLOW workshop with the youth at the SOS villages. The grounds of the village were beautiful and seemed like an oasis from the streets of Bissau. The village is a refuge for orphaned and at risk youth. After meeting with the director of the school, we entered the classroom. "Bon Dia!(Good Morning!) shouted all the kids at once with huge smiles on their faces. I think the only thing bigger than their smiles were ours. Before we could even begin the workshop, their teacher let us know they had a surprise for us. Five students went to the front of the class and performed an adorable rap they had put together for us. I don't think it was possible for our smiles to be any wider after that. Hasan did his thing, as always, and the kids loved him. They were very respectful and enthusiastic, although Hasan almost got trampled during the autograph session at the end. They opened up more as the session went on. They shared their perspectives on life in Guinea Bissau, indicating child abuse is a frequent problem in the community. We concluded the workshop by taking some pictures with the whole class, and telling them we'll see them in a few days. Next we were off to a radio interview which went really well. It was wonderful hearing all the callers show love, and express their excitement about the concert on Saturday. I will say this, because I know Hasan won't. He is a celebrity here now. The whole city is talking about him, and his face is everywhere. It is crazy. It's amazing to finally see him getting his due. As we drive around town you can see people smiling and pointing in his direction. Random people in the street are calling him out by name. It feels good to see someone getting celebrity recognition that actually deserves it for a change. We are making a difference here, and it feels good.
P.S- Pardon Hasan's lack of an entry today. He got a bad case of food poisoning yesterday afternoon and is still trying to regain his strength. Keep his health in your prayers, and I (or hopefully he) will update you next email.
Sorry for the delay. We had no Internet (or water for that matter) yesterday.
I ate my 1st solid food in 24 hours, cant go wrong with french fries! Pardon missing out on my addition to the journal yesterday but i think i had food poisoning, thank you to everyone who wished me well. Yesterday was an amazing day for me(before the sickness). If you had told me i would be teaching creative writing to kids in Guinea Bissau 7 years ago i wouldnt have been able to imagine it. Hip-Hop has truly taken me to unexpected places and brought my aspirations to life. Its in moments like these i think about my guidence counselor Ms. Peleg who said i wouldnt amount to much, now we are doing the opposite by telling kids all over the world they can reach their dreams and be free through education and writing.
Working with kids is as always a great experience but its very seldom they have a performance arranged for me to start off the class. Most of the children were shy to begin with but once we asked about what they thought about life in America they started to open up. "I think everyone has a nice house", "I think there are alot of singers and dancers", "I think niggas in America got it good", one boy said with a smile at 1st looking for an affirmation that he knew our slang. The entire world listens to what African-Americans have to say, its like we report live from the belly of the beast in most peoples eyes. The influence our culture has on the world is unprecidented. The ironic this is from what i have seen in Guinea Bissau's Hip-Hop music is that it is more politicized than what we hear in the states, despite the possible ramifications. Have we gone soft in the US? Are we really that comfortable now in American Hip-Hop that all there is to rap about are parties and bullshit? Or is money the only objective? The other irony is that the word nigger/nigga is thrown around in music and speech, as imitation. Its like seeing the greatest influnce of Hip-Hop as a vehicle for positive change and simultaneously watching the negative of how it can also put us down. I guess so is true with all powerful things, inshAllah we will start to use this power we have to truly uplift humanity all over the globe.
Today was a quiet day. Hasan spent the day in the hotel getting better, and I spent the day making sure he did. So, before things get hectic again tomorrow, I figured I'd share some of the lighter moments of the trip so far. There have been so many ironies and random moments to go along with all the deep and meaningful ones. For instance last night I ate dinner at a French pizzeria in the middle of nowhere on a dirt road in Bissau. The whole menu was in Italian, the owner spoke French and English, but the national language here is Portuguese. That was so weird, I'm still debating if it actually happened or if I dreamt it. The grasshopers here are on steriods. They are about the size of a small mouse and can jump from the floor to your face in a single bound. The wifi at the hotel covers every room except ours. The lobby closes at 11pm, so late last night I looked like an Internet crack addict standing outside our neighbors door, as mosquitos swarmed me like a Vegas buffet. So anyone that got an email from me yesterday that was written in all lowercase it's because i was typing with one hand and swatting mosquitos with the other. Shout out to the blond female we saw at Goree island, who was the only tourist who took a picture smiling while sitting in the "Door of No Return"while holding a limited edition Louis Vuitton bag. She made the Swedish couple wearing full kente clothing with cornrows in their hair seem a lot less contradictory. It's amazing what you will eat when you're starving. At the Dakar airport, Hasan and I ate what we swear was a squirrel meat empanada. Hunger makes you do some stupid things. Ok, that's it for now...this journal entry got way longer than I intended...hahaha
So my sickness compounded by my paranioa of medicinal drugs has a 50/50 success rate on this trip so far. On one hand i avoided getting a shot for food poisoning by a doctor in basketball shorts but on the other i was only taking the childs dosage of pepto the other day, so... Now that i am on the "12 and up meds" im at about 70% just enought for me to give my 110% for the almost 50 non musicians that showed up to watch the rehersal today. Before we began our tour over here we had discussed doing a couple of my songs live with a band from Bissau. The 1st song the band played was "Angel Dust" complete with drums, keys, electric guitar, electric bass, 3 backround singers, plus jembe & conga drums. I was vibing like crazy off of that from jump. It's amazing how universal the languge of music truly is. We worked out bars, refrains, chorus lines, tempos, and the different places the singers needed to add on in at least 3 languages. People from the neighborhood seemed to just hear the music and walk into the back yard, pull out their camera phones and just start recording as we got through the song and moved on to "Blaxploitation". At the end of the session the band played a traditional Guinea Bissau rhythm and all the MC's including one of the singers dropped a few bars after the hook of "Big Up G.B. Whoa". Big Up GB is the name of the crew we are rocking with here and there is a lot of talent in the squad, i have the utmost respect for the artists in Bissau because they lay it on the line for their music and what they feel is right. Very few people are lucky enough to truly believe in something, and even less are willing to put heir life on the line for it. If Hip-Hop back home had half the courage of the MC's in Bissau we wouldnt be poisoning ourselves and dancing to our own demise. For better or worse tho i love Hip-Hop, and music as a universal language has the ability to unite people from all walks of life, nomatter their race, creed, religion, or nation of origin. Despite the hustle and grind of the business, the marketing meetings, sale sheets, and deadlines there are still moments like these where its about what really matters- honest self expression, freedom, building, having a good time and just making music. I will end this one with what has been the constant quote in my mind this past week-
"Music is the weapon of the future" -Fela Kuti
The truth can be painful and disturbing. Music is a powerful tool, and like any powerful tool, it can have both constructive and destructive effects. Today we discovered one of hip hop music's most widespread influences. It has gone from music created to combat repression, to music that subliminally promotes it. Young black youth all over the world now happily refer to themselves as niggers. I don't want to hear the stupid "nigger" vs "nigga"argument. They are the same damn word. The harsh realization for us this trip has been today's discovery that most youth here in West Africa refer to themselves as niggers. In all fairness, they have no knowledge of the history of the word (unlike the youth in the U.S who use it despite knowing). Still, to come back to the roots (Africa) and see how the fruit (hip hop music) has decomposed them is depressing. Especially since music is a big part of what we do. You turn on the radio here and the word is everywhere. It's prominently sung and rapped without any type of editing on all public mediums. Artists here use it as part of their name. It has replaced the term "MC" or "rapper". Instead of MC Hammer, here they would call themselves Nigga Hammer. It's really thrown us for a loop, and made us realize just how much work we have ahead of us.
At our 2nd radio interview, the host began to refer to the rappers as niggers. There is no easy way to inform a host on live national radio, that he's using the most insulting word in history as a term of endearment. Hasan knew it had to be done though. So, while on live radio Hasan spent 10 minutes breaking down the history of the word. The host looked uncomfortable, as if he felt a little put on the spot (especially since I was filming it). However, after the interview concluded he thanked Hasan for the information. Will he stop using it? Who knows? Thousands of people heard the broadcast though, and all we can do is give people the information. What they do with it is their decision. Later that afternoon, Hasan conducted a workshop on the history of hip hop for about 30 Guinean artists. "What is the meaning of nigger?" one asked. As Hasan articulately answered the question, I saw a very divided reaction. Some of the artists seemed disinterested, but others seemed visibly moved as they learned the history behind it. Even those that were moved, later used the word repeatedly out of habit later that day. This led me to a disheartening thought. Despite their sympathy to the plight of African Americans, do West Africans not view it as their own? Do they see it as "That is terrible what happened to them" instead of "That's terrible what happened to us"? That's the only reason I could rationalize for why their clear show of sympathy, did not turn to immediate disgust and anger. I don't have the answers, but never imagined having to ask the questions. Hasan had a final talk with As One, one of the most talented and influential artists in Bissau, about the topic. I think he reached him. Perhaps he can be that catalyst the rest of the artist's need. Time will tell. Right now one of the groups is rehearsing for the show Saturday. The chorus of the song is "Niggaaaaa" sung in a three part harmony. What has rap music done?
Tomorrow is a new day. All we can do is what we can do.
Diaspora is a word that derives from the Greek word meaning a scattering of seeds. I 1st heard it used to describe the displacement of Enslaved African people throughout The Caribbean, and North, & South America. This disconnect from our roots in my opinion is a large part of our problems in the USA. Imagine growing up an orphan, not knowing your parents and growing up in the home of someone who hates you. That hatred from home would make you grow to hate yourself, and fear your oppressor. We learn very little about Africa in school, it's civilizations, people, or contributions to the world throughout history. It has always been a dream to return to the land of not only our origins as African Americans, but the origins of all humanity. When i was in Ingolstat, Germany we were taken to a war museum filled with artifacts dealing with everything war and German dating back to the time of the Huns. In the post WWI section there was a German painters artistic rendition of The Treaty of Versailles. In this painting each European nation/America was represented by a cartoon(Americas was Uncle Sam) sitting around a pie. Each slice of pie bore the names of the African countries each nation held as a colonial power. For example Guinea Bissau was on Portugal's plate, Algeria-France, The Congo(then Zaire) Belgium. This painting has stuck with me because it has been done in Central & South America, & "The Middle East" the same way. Most African counties still suffer from the effects of colonial rule and the vacuum left by hundreds of years worth of subjugation, social stratification, and the overall rape of the natural resources by these colonial powers. Finance is how colonialism still shows its horns in countries such as the Congo, where the lands natural resources alone should have it situated as one of the richest nations in the world. Unfortunately it's citizens are the 2nd poorest in the world. The Congo's land produces a range of everything from petroleum, copper, gold, uranium, phosphorous, & colton(a valuable mineral used to make cell phones) to rubber & bananas. Even tho the Dutch granted the Congo its Independence in 1960 Belgium still made sure to sign a treaty biding the Congo to sell raw materials such as those i just mentioned at prices based on the year of the treaty even tho they sell the products to others and even back to the Congo at today's inflated rate, putting the country in massive debt. Tribal wars like what was seen in Rwanda or what is seen now in the Sudan are left over disputes due to the European conquerors setting national lines with no regard to tribal lands. Raj spoke on learning about the exploitation of fishing waters here in Bissau before we set foot in the country in a previous blog and now after being here for a week the after effects of colonialism are more than #'s and statistics in my mind. The civil war in 1998 left Bissau's power grid in shambles, something they are still repairing to this day, corrupt politicians and lack of funds make this difficult. I know that when i return people are going to ask me how it was and what are my thoughts on the tour, i don't think i will be able to express all i have learned in one sitting as if this was spring break or Disneyland. Some of the beauty i have seen here put a smile on my soul, the market, the people, the children's laughter, the landscape, the vibrant greens and the hues of sand that show all of the worlds people Allah created from the earth, i could go on for hours. Still there is so much pain here, not just that of the past but the present is incredibly hard on many people due to lack of medicine, education, clean drinking water, healthy living conditions, and the dangers of corruption and military dominance of the people. When we were kids some of my fellow African-American's in school started off with a twisted opinion of Africa. People would make jokes about the children in the "for the price of a cup of coffee" Sally Struthers commercials, say "I speak African" then proceed to make clicking sounds or at worst insult one another by calling someone an "African booty scratcher". I pray that our trip here makes a positive difference in those we have come in contact with in Senegal/Guinea Bissau and those we will build with in the future back home or wherever we travel. Tonight is the concert, time to make history into our story.
I can't even lie. I'm nervous. After a week of big radio interviews, posters all over the city, and promotional appearances, tonight is the big show. Everyone expects it will be a mad house. Hasan will be the first American hip hop artist to ever perform in Guinea-Bissau! Yes, I said ever. Normally, I would be concerned with how well Hasan peforms at a show, but this time my mind is elsewhere. I know he's going to leave his soul on the stage. What I'm scared of is the crowd control, police presence, and very minimal security present. This show is about revolution, and that doesn't usually make those in power feel too good. I'm hoping the military underestimates the power of hip hop on this night, and leaves us in peace. If they do, Hasan will definitely leave a big impression on the minds of all those in attendance. Please wish us a safe and powerful night. This is what it's all about. Today we show the people the power of music!
It was finally the night of the big show. As we waited in our hotel room, I layed on my bed focused, running scenario over scenario through my head. I wasn't sure what to expect. Hasan sat in a chair with headphones blaring, getting in to a zone. This was the biggest and most importantant show of his life on many levels. A knock on the door got us both to our feet. Our driver was here and it was time to head to the venue. As the car drove to the back door, we saw a crowd of people gathered that were trying to scale the wall that surrounded the concert in order to get in for free. As Brian opened the back door we rushed out of the car and in to the venue. We had to fight to close the gate as the crowd outside tried to rush and jump on it. When we finally looked around we saw the place was full and the show had already started. Earlier in the week some of the artists had mentioned how the crowd at shows in Guinea Bissau are very reserved, but not to take their lack of enthusiasm personal, as it is not a reflection of how much they are enjoying the show. Even still, it was weird to see the crowd sitting in chairs staring at the show like they were watching a movie. They just sat there quietly, with the occasional cheer, applause, or laughter. This was not the energy a hip hop show is supposed to have! As the show progressed their demeanor remained the same. I can't say they looked bored, but they definitely didn't look excited. I could tell Hasan was getting more and more pumped up as his time to perform got closer. He had an energy about him that I've gotten used to recognizing now. By the end of the Baloberos performance the crowd was actually a bit more energized. After a nice introduction Hasan ran on to the stage to the cheers of the crowd. Halfway through the first song the people were definitely feeling him, but they were still holding back. Then suddenly Hasan leaped off the stage with his wireless microphone and jumped in to the crowd. It was like someone lit a match in a room full of gasoline. The place exploded. The crowd went crazy as Hasan ran through them. Once he finally hopped back on stage, the crowd was on fire the rest of the night. I've seen a frenzied crowd before, but this was different. This was more than just excitement. When I looked in their eyes, I saw pride. I saw the pride and joy of a people who rarely see it come together like on this day. As Hasan stood on stage holding the flag of Guinea Bissau over his head, and I watched the once reserved crowd rush the stage jumping up and down in unison, my arms filled with goosebumps as I held the camera over my head. I was witnessing the power of music, and the love that flows through it. Mission accomplished. Our trip was whole.
Some people say ignorance is bliss. I understand where they're coming from. However, I think all knowledge is useful. Some of it's inspirational and some is disheartening. Hasan and I definitely got a dose of both on this trip, and for that we are thankful.
It was finally time to answer a whole weeks worth of interview questions, "What will we see from Hasan Salaam on the stage?", "What is it like to be the 1st American Hip-Hop performer in Guinea Bissau?", "Do you think the people here will receive your music?". As the week went by more and more people stopped me in the street or stood outside the radio stations to meet me after we were done with the interviews. The love, support, and appreciation the people of Guinea Bissau showed gave me such an overwhelming feeling of having to deliver Hip-Hop in its purest & livest form. Anything less would let down all of the people who called into the radio shows wishing me courage, the artists who painted murals for the show, and the MCs who risk their safety for music that makes a difference. Before the show i cracked on Raj pacing back and forth like he was waiting on the birth of a child. I thru on all the music that inspires me, Sam Cooke "A Change Gone Come", Michael Jackson "Off The Wall", Nas "Represent" and more joints that sparked the light i prayed to spark in the crowd. Recited the fatihah a few times on the ride over to the venue, the streets seemed empty of people but full of cars, it wouldnt be a show if there wasnt traffic slowing you up a little something even here in West Africa. The performance column of my bucket list had rocking in Africa as #1 by far, when my intro was done and i stepped on that stage i knew that i was exactly where i needed to be. I started off with a double time accapella that got a great response the people made noise but they were sitting in their seats like it was an Opera or some ish like that so i jumped off stage into the crowd climbed on a chair and the people went crazy! I ran to the back of the venue and around the whole crowd the more amped they got the more amped i got to the point where i just started freestyling on the 3rd verse of my opening song. By the time i made it back to the stage it was on and poppin at the Lenox in Bissau! I rocked 7 songs w/MC Bunka translating a few things in betwewwn songs for me a few guest spots by Big Up GB MCs and Baleberos over the "Wild Style" track that was live. The finale was a live versions of "Angel Dust" & "7 Minutes of Truth"(the Baloberos song from The Impossible Music Sessions) that worked up a frenzy in the crowd and on stage where people just started jumping up and getting some shine time thanking me and just jumping around on some real live Hip-Hop shit! At one point a fan jumped on stage and put the Guinea Bissau's flag on my back, i wore it with pride and rocked like no tomorrow, afterwards i must've taken two hundred plus pictures with concert goers and was told i gotta come back just as many times. The saying goes- action speaks louder than words, but words have the ability to inspire action and i believe that music has the power to change the world. Long live Hip-Hop and All Praise Due to Allah.