Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Race Against Time

What Up World!!!

I need to keep up with this blogging, so here's another entry. I've had a few minor revelations and a lot of provoked thoughts due to some substantial experiences that I'd like to share. My subject for this isn't necessarily a "race against time" but more an exploration into time itself & issues of race in society.

I had the wonderful opportunity to spend an entire week at home in Houston, TX. It was the perfect situation as my band was set to play the House of Blues the Saturday before Thanksgiving, so I was able to perform (what I love to do most of all) & spend some time with the family for the holiday. It was a momentous occasion that I desperately needed. I had the chance to reconnect with friends that I haven't seen in a while, & in one circumstance, I learned that someone near & dear to me still had a poem that I had wrote for her over 10 years ago. She asked me if I remembered it, to which my honesty urged me to reply, "...actually, I can't say that I do." The fact remained that I was touched by the fact that something that I created so long ago with the most sincere & genuine intentions was still, in some way, cherished...remembered...& appreciated. Just thinking about it stirs my soul.

Even with the six days spent home, I felt like I was pressed for time to catch up with everyone. I tried to incorporate & invite everyone that I could to concerts, bars, restaurants, etc. that I attended in order to spend time with everyone I had the chance to kick it with. Regardless of this challenge, no situation felt like a chore. As much as it got hectic planning & driving (I mean...it is Houston) every experience was more fun than I could imagine. I played "bags" or "cornhole" for the first time. I visited the sports lounge that my 10 yr. high school reunion (that I unfortunately missed) was held at a week before. I attended a Bruno Mars concert (totally spur of the moment). Checked a totally obscure yet ill spot called "The Flat" that a friend of a friend was spinning at. I sat in with some musicians I've never met or performed with at a chill bar in Spring. I got the opportunity to "check in" via a finger scan at another 24 hr. Fitness other than my usual spot in Dallas (...and it worked). I ate some sushi (it had been far too long). I played with my family dog (she & I both needed the exercise). I got the opportunity to do all of this & more, but what I learned was that it didn't matter how I spent my time. What truly mattered was who I was spending my time with...& it is this truth that I will never forget.

Upon my return to Dallas, I got to perform with Darth Vato @ SoundClash 2010. This experience coupled with a Nevada victory over Boise State made for a momentous Friday. I also learned the intensity of my addiction to Netflix, being away from it for over a week. It was so easy to jump back into streaming on my PS3 & trying to whittle away at my extended queue of documentary, horror, classic drama, & action films. The first order of business was a doc entitled "Afro-Punk". It was a very interesting film about the issues that arise being an African-American that identifies with punk culture. Granted, being a bi-racial man of African-American decent, I was captivated by the many things presented within this film.

The documentary began with a dedication to, "...every black kid who was ever called a nigger, & to every white kid who thinks they know what that means". Instantly, I was engaged. It's hard not to be curious when such a polarizing word is invoked. I can't summarize the film within a few paragraphs, for my ultimate point is, essentially, the black experience is far too complicated to be defined within a film or blog entry, & that is the beauty of the film itself. It doesn't provide an answer or absolute definition of "blackness". It simply exhibits various experiences, perspectives, etc. to provide the viewer with a peek into the lives of those they may know, yet not fully understand. That was what is so refreshing about documentaries such as "Afro Punk" or "The Heart is a Drum Machine", for I feel that all art, in its purest form, will not provide answers, but, to the contrary, inspire more questions or provoke more thought. Yet in still, I'm also of the ilk to believe that the black experience can't be defined, & in many ways I desire to not be defined by it whatsoever, though I know there is no escaping it.

Viewing such musical luminaries as Angelo Moore & Kyp Malone, musicians that I not only admire but identify with, discussing performing music that is more popular within anglo circles than african-american communities was interesting, for I never thought upon my entrance into "rock" music that I was outside the norm. Granted, as I've grown older & wiser, I'm more aware of how my rearing as a child wasn't the usual upbringing. In some ways I've resented the lack of strong cultural influences within my childhood, but I've grown to understand and admire my parents for bringing me up to be truly "post-racial". Despite this experience I have, & in many ways still do, confront the usual scrutiny in being a minority in America. It was these discussions that intrigued me most, the examination of what & who defines "black culture".

Regardless of the good intent of my parents to raise my sister & I to identify ourselves as members of the human race rather than merely black or latino, there were times where programmed social constructs reared their ugly head. I can remember the numerous Corey Haim posters on my sister's walls when I was younger, so the experience my sister & I had growing up contradicted the scenario painted within the movie "Mo' Betta Blues" in which Spike Lee's character spoke of a situation where his brother was beaten for having Betty & Veronica posted on his walls...simply because they were white. Despite this, I clearly recall my freshman year at TCU during parents weekend. I remember being worried that I was going to catch some flack for sporting diamond studs in my ears, but instead my dad, looking around campus on the way to the football game told me, "looks like slim pickins' son." I laughed it off, unaware of the weight of his words, responding with a simple, "yeah right."

I was pleased to see the film take the time to touch upon interracial relationships & how complicated they can be (if you let them). The purported novelty of dating a black man/woman was explored, but it was a situation expressed by one young lady who spoke of how her mother once said, "...perhaps it's better that you don't date a black man, because they all do drugs, have bad credit, & can't support you" that struck me like a ton of bricks. Similar as it was to the sentiment my father expressed, his words didn't contain the venom of bigotry in identifying with unfounded stereotypes. My father simply may have thought that I didn't find white girls attractive & here I was attending a school full of white girls (he obviously had no clue...HA!), but it was the situation in the film that provoked more thought as to who truly perpetuates these ridiculous notions. How many limits do we place upon our own culture, & who carries on these ideals? I suffered the scrutiny of my very own friends back home when I attended TCU. In many ways it may have been simple teasing or resentment for being away from home so much, but I was accused of being "whitewashed" on numerous occasions during my time in college. Perhaps that was what my father was trying to tell me. "Slim pickins' son...because either you'll be the guy to piss off daddy, the "safe" negro, or the fodder for your friends gossip...but chances are things won't ever be the same again."

Well, they weren't, but all things must change with time. I've even spoken with some older musical mentors who have told me when learning of my background, "your parents must be real courageous & cool, because having a relationship like theirs & bringing you & your sister into this world when they did, wasn't common or necessarily celebrated." Honestly, I would have to say that my parents were not only brave but a success, because they absolutely accomplished their goal of rearing my sister & I "post-racially". As much as we are fully aware and celebrate our cultures, we never feel deeply affected by the limitations that others (including our own people) place upon us. I'm actually surprised by how many times racially sensitive situations fly over my head or how I never thought twice when it comes to my desire to write and perform rock music. Accusations of being "whitewashed" never hurt me, because I was fully aware of who I was, as I am to this day. I am the son of David & Frances Hardaway. I'm a self-avowed "Blaxican" (or blaxicano if you like). I will not be defined by other people's standards or ideals, & for that I will always be grateful to my parents & love them for it (even though I still wish my mom taught me to speak spanish when I was younger...HA!).

Thursday, November 18, 2010


Hey young world, the world is yours!

It's been awhile, but I'm back & I'll try to keep this up a bit more regularly. I know I'm in need of getting some things off of my chest because status updates aren't big enough to contain these thoughts runnin' thru my head. Today's subject...games, in 2 parts.

1) - Duty Calls

I feel that I must preface this discussion with the admission that I'm not a Kobe Bryant fan by any means. As a fan of the game of basketball, I respect his prowess, but I can't bring myself to root for him. He's that polarizing of a figure, but when you play for a team like the Lakers, the Yankees, or the Cowboys, it's not a difficult feat to pull off. Anywho, despite my spite, I couldn't help but t0 come to his defense (@ least within this forum) over a brewing controversy that stems from his appearance in a commercial for the new Call of Duty: Black-Ops video game. Within the article linked below you'll find numerous activists, journalists, commentators, etc. that are blowing something so trivial out of proportion, making allegations that these war games make light of the reality of war violence, & as a "role model" he should be ashamed!!!

You can read all about it here....


Everyone's so touchy over a video game commercial??? C'mon meow!!! I thought this ad campaign was awesome. I've played many "war games" since the Atari 5200 days to the Sega Genesis era to my current PS3 play, from games like General Chaos to the COD Series & regardless of this fact, I'm not senselessly blasting away @ people in real life. I love horror movies. I enjoy action films. Yet in still, I don't commit murders or assault people for fun on the weekends. The "blame television/movies/music/video games" argument is so tired. You think by now everyone would know better than to continue to make mountains out of mole hills.

All these folks butt hurt over a silly game need to chill. These ESPN folks complain because they've got nothing better to do other than instigate controversy & the rest of these fools are offended because they just like to be outraged. I mean, how else will they get any attention or have "news" to report? If any of these decent people were seriously concerned about gun violence or the human casualty of war, they would be activists for stricter gun regulation domestically & pushing for ending military actions abroad that put American lives in danger. Maybe, they'd simply get more involved in their children's lives so that they could be more aware of whether or not their kids are at risk of acting out or suffering from gun violence...but no, it's far more easier to simply complain and target a high profile celebrity to be an example rather than being a living example themselves.

All this hub-bub reminds me, I need to get my hands on a copy of Black-Ops for PS3. (No such thing as bad press...yay marketing!)

2) - The Music Industry Game

Recently, I got hipped up to a discussion (available on YouTube, of course) between Percussionist, Songwriter, Producer James Mtume & Jazz Critic Stanley Crouch over the genius or purported "selling out" of Miles Davis. If you know me, then you know I dig Miles Davis. I won't rehash the entire argument between these gentlemen, but I will make it clear...Mtume was a collaborator with Miles, directly involved with the crafting of his music during the "Electric Era"...Crouch is a critic. I'm sure you can guess who's accusing who of being a sell out. Though this video displayed a lot of thought provoking arguments (mostly by Mtume because it was edited that way), the foundation of the debate comes from the allegation that Clive Davis "forced" Miles to move into another direction.

Critics. Label Heads. Producers. All of these people play their part in this music game. I often wonder where my muse comes from. I mean, I know what inspires me to write certain things, but is it pure creation or am I subject to the influence that our current media age wields? I'm currently an independent artist, & though I aspire to bigger opportunities and avenues for my music to be distributed, disseminated, & hopefully celebrated, I still revel in my independence. I do not take for granted the time and freedom that is granted when you are solely responsible for your output. Time tables. Image constructs. Performing material written for you, not by you. These are the prevalent ideals within the current state of the music industry.

Don't get me wrong, I know of how Marvin Gaye didn't want to record "Heard it Thru the Grapevine". I'm aware that it was Otis Redding who penned "Respect" though popular thought identifies that song with Aretha. There are performers, & then there are artists. For some performers, who are on that virtuosic level, their artistry lies in their performance ability. Yet, lately when I listen to current music, I can't help but to feel like so many "artists" are replaceable. The similarities within pop music are so pervasive I can't tell one act from another. The game ain't the same, but the players are. I don't view myself as a genius on Miles' level whatsoever, but I can only imagine the scrutiny he must've received for continuing to be forward thinking. James Mtume agreed that the music Miles made during his electric period, alienated a lot of his traditional fan base, but those compositions weren't made for that group of people. It was made for the next generation. That is the definition of artistry, & it's a level that I aspire to achieve.

Despite my denouncement of the homogenized pop music landscape, Mtume also questioned why once something becomes popular or mainstream it is often swiftly attacked or cannot contain any form of artistic merit. This is another phenomenon that continually perplexes me. I feel as though God is the ultimate creator. I believe that God is love. As a creative person, I can identify with the love that a creator has for what he creates. That is how I feel God's love in every living thing on earth, but though I may see beauty within even the most mundane of things within this world, there are others who see past it or don't even recognize it at all. They may want to change it for many motives...convenience, commerce, vanity, etc. Yet, they don't create anything, so how can one expect them to understand it? Gives a whole new meaning to the saying that everyone's a critic...right???

I guess, all in all, it's simply the game of life. We all have a part to play to keep everything moving & make things somewhat interesting. So, play it cool, ice cold...play it cool.