DEXTER BROWNE, NIPSEY HUSSLE, AND THE GANGS OF L.A.

Dexter and Nipsey

Part I: A HIDDEN HISTORY

The just released biography of sainted rapper Nipsey Hussle- ‘The Marathon Don’t Stop’- by famed Hip Hop biographer Rob Kenner reveals a stunning story that a Trinidadian civil engineer turned photographer named Dexter Browne may have been the critical mentor in the transformation of Nipsey into the conscious radical force he is lionized as today. Dexter’s role in Nipsey’s formation had been completely excised from the history- until now!

Browne’s conscious intervention in gang culture- as a middle-class Howard University educated engineer- and its resulting in the formation of the icon Nipsey Hussle and the creation of a multi-million dollar alternative multi-media industry around gang boys who imbibed his strong ideologies of Black Cooperative Economics and Ownership of IP is one of the great hidden stories in the African diaspora and in modern Pop Cultural History.

The story at heart is about the power of Black Music, Black Culture, Digital Media, and the enduring nature of Radical Black Thought in the transforming of lives. It is also the story of the interconnectedness of the African Diaspora, the subversive influence of the Caribbean, and the transformative role of institutions like Howard University in Black Life.

MARTYRDOM

On the 31st March 2019- 2 years ago- Ermias Asghedom aka Nipsey Hussle was gunned down at the messianic age of 33 in Crenshaw LA. What would make this Hip-Hop ex-gang member’s murder different than others was the fact that Nipsey was not a normal rapper but an icon for Black Ownership and Self Reparation. Popularly called the Tupac Shakur of his generation, Nipsey was known for his brilliant flow on numerous mixtapes including The Marathon and Crenshaw, the last of which rapper Jay-Z bought 100 copies of for $100 each. An early advocate for label independence Nipsey eventually signed with a major label. After much delay, his debut studio album Victory Lap was released in 2018 to critical and commercial success. It was nominated for Best Rap Album at the 61st Grammys in 2019. Hussle won two posthumous Grammys for Best Rap Performance and Best Rap/Sung Performance the next year at the 62nd Grammys.

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REDEMPTION CUT – a review of Zack Snyder’s Justice League

A 4 hour epic movie that may change human storytelling and that culminated an unprecedented fan movement whose implications we haven’t seen the last of yet deserves a thorough investigation. Here is my review of Zack Snyder’s ‘Justice League’. This long-form article also analyses some of the larger cultural questions at play…

PUSHING THE STORYTELLING ENVELOPE

Zack Snyder’s Justice League is an ambitious, magnificent movie setting itself the epic mission of re-engineering ancient and contemporary Western Myth for the modern Pop Culture Age. It is quite possibly the greatest Superhero movie yet committed to film. For those to whom this is a bridge too far, they must at least concede that it certainly belongs in the company of the elite of that Circle- an elite that includes Into the Spider-Verse, Spiderman 2, Avengers Infinity War (not Endgame people), Blade, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and Doctor Strange. However ZSJL transcends the superhero genre itself and elevates to also become one of the greatest fantasy films of all time. Its dazzling epic scope, visual and literary poetry, and intimately drawn humanism not only perfectly pays off the promise and the arcs of the two ambitious but flawed Superman films that preceded it, but it may just have done something else that I am not hearing any international critics catch on to yet: with the Snyder Cut of Justice League Zack Snyder may have invented a completely new form of storytelling! For those of us who would have signed up to HBO Max to see this lovingly wrought 4 hour 2 minute artefact- we may in fact have just witnessed the end of cinema as we know it!…

A SHORT HISTORY OF THE SNYDER CUT FOR THE 3 PEOPLE IN THE BACK WHO DON’T KNOW

The most successful pop culture franchises in the world at the moment, bar Star Wars, are Comic Book movie franchises. They occupy the highest reaches of Pop Culture, driving billions of dollars to their owners and commanding the attention of millions worldwide. The genre is led by Marvel who is owned by Disney. Marvel had a half-decade long head-start on its rival DC comics, controlled by Warner Brothers, with Iron Man launching in April 2008. DC’s Man of Steel came out June 2013.

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CREATIVE SECTOR POST-COVID BUDGET STRATEGY 2021

Young Firemen Sailor. Photo by Rubadiri Victor

I will soon publish every single government plan for the Creative Sector to be found in the 5 relevant Budget documents. This is not that. This is about next steps in reaction to what was found in those Budget docs.

PREAMBLE

We have been abandoned. There is only us. We have to pick up this Sector and carry it on our backs and carry it to the place of Glory and Prosperity that we know it deserves. When the entire Film Sector is given TT$1.3 million (US $191,608.) to run an entire industrial programme you know you have been abandoned.

There is nothing in the Budget that can save this Sector. Nothing. WE have to get the Sector moving. Only we can save ourselves. We have to get people paid and employed and on work that will pay them royalties or value-added long after their exertions. We are going to create the conditions for this to happen. There are over 10,000 people who consider themselves Artists and who depend upon the Arts for significant parts of their earnings. 350 people received the $5000 grants!!!… 350 out of 10,000. Another 10,000 are seasonal and part-time artists who depend on the Arts and Festivals for part of their income during the year. The Artists Registry registered only 27 artists last year!!!! We are on our own. We can depend on no one.

Our industry is the 2nd largest on planet Earth earning $2.2 trillion annually, online it is what has kept the world sane during COVID. The Creative industries are larger than Oil and Gas and Manufacturing. Government has refused to understand this value and refused to enable and empower the Sector. We have to do this work now for ourselves. Here is the plan for the way forward:

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THE CREATIVE SECTOR FORENSICS ON THE NATIONAL BUDGET 2021

The hands of Fitzroy Coleman, Trinidadian, once the greatest guitarist in the world. Photo by Dexter Browne. Courtesy Generation Lion Magazine

There are 5 Budget documents. The full plan for the Arts is only visible by assembling all the pieces of projects in all of them together. Here are the various parts of the 2021 Budget plan for the Arts with my commentary:

COMMENTARY: THERE ARE A LOT OF INCENTIVES FOR A TECH ECONOMY IN THE BUDGET BUT MUCH IS AIMED TOWARDS RETOOLING THE PUBLIC SERVICE & TAX PAYMENT. THERE ARE ALSO A SET OF INCENTIVES TO ESTABLISH NEW TECH BUSINESSES. THE ISSUE IS THAT SEED CAPITAL FOR THE CREATIVE SECTOR HAS BEEN GUTTED. THE RUNWAY TO THE VIRTUAL ECONOMY FOR THE SECTOR ARE THE FILM AND MUSIC INDUSTRIES AND THEIR SUBVENTIONS HAVE BEEN REDUCED TO $1.3 MILLION AND $1.5 MILLION RESPECTIVELY. FOR ENTIRE INDUSTRIES!!! WE ASKED FOR $80 MILLION TO FUND FILM, FASHION, AND MUSIC AND GOT A LITTLE MORE THAN $5 MILLION. THAT CAN’T WORK.

  • GOVERNMENT IS NOW TALKING ABOUT A DIGITAL ECONOMY, THAT’S NOT WHERE THE WORLD IS. THE WORLD WAS AT THIS STAGE IN THE 1990S WITH THE VENTURE CAPITAL FUELLED TECH BOOM WHICH CREATED THE MODERN DIGITAL WORLD, THAT WAS THE 1ST PHASE OF TECH MORE THAN 25 ZEARS AGO.
  • FOR THE LAST 20 YEARS THE WORLD WAS IN THE 2ND PHASE OF THE DIGITAL ECONOMY WITH THE CREATIVE INDUSTRIES DOMINATING AS THE FRONTLINE INDUSTRY THAT WAS UTLISING AND MAKING DIGITAL PRODUCTS PRACTICAL AND PUSHING GLOBAL INNOVATION
  • WITH COVID THE WORLD IS NOW IN THE 3RD PHASE OF VIRTUAL BUSINESS WITH TECH NOW ABOUT TO BE INTEGRATED AT A MORE INTIMATE AND SOPHISTICATED DOMESTIC LEVEL. MORE PROCESSES AND FACTORS OF PRODUCTION WILL NOW MOVE ONLINE. DIGITALISATION IS MOVING INTO MORE NICHE AND DOMESTIC LEVELS BUILDING UPON THE CREATIVE ECONOMY APPARATUS
  • THE WORLD HAS PASSED ON FROM MERE STAGE 1 DIGITISATION A LONG TIME AGO.
  • THE WORLD WAS IN A CREATIVE INDUSTRY REVOLUTION THIS LAST 2 DECADES WITH AN EMPOWERED CREATIVE SECTOR THAT SAW THE RISE OF TENS OF THOUSANDS OF CREATIVE MILLIONAIRES AND A PROFOUND SHIFT IN POWER AWAY FROM MANUFACTURING AND EXTRACTIVE INDUSTRIES. IN THAT PERIOD T&T’S CREATIVE SECTOR COLLAPSED BECAUSE OF GOVERNMENT’S REFUSAL TO CREATE AN ENABLING ENVIRONMENT OF POLICY, LEGILSATION, AND INSTITUTIONS FOR IT. THIS IS DESPITE CREATIVITY BEING T&T’S COMPARATIVE ADVANTAGE
  • TO LEAPFROG INTO THE STAGE 3 DIGITAL ECONOMY WE STILL NEED TO CREATE THAT ENABLING ENVIRONMENT TO CAPITALISE ON THE STAGE 2 CREATIVE ECNOMY
  • THIS NATIONAL BUDGET STILL BELIEVES IN THE 19TH CENTURY EXTRACTIVE AND MANUFACTURING INDUSTRIES MODEL MORE THAN IT DOES THE 21ST CENTURY CREATIVE AND SERVICES INDUSTRY MODEL
  • IT BELIEVES IT CAN ENTER DIGITISATION STAGE 3 WITHOUT GOING THROUGH STAGE 1 AND 2
  • THIS IS A 19TH CENTURY BUDGET PRETENDING TO BE IN THE 1990S. IT MISSES THE 2020s CLEAN!
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CREATIVE INDUSTRY POST COVID MASTERPLAN

Retooling the economy after the COVID pandemic shutdown and global quarantining.

INTRODUCTION:

Courtesy James Hackett

Now that both parties have released their manifestoes — see here for comparisons — it is important that Sector voices present some of the best Sector thinking on the way forward.

The Artists’ Coalition of Trinidad & Tobago (ACTT) has been the primary Creative Industry lobbyist and representative group in T&T for 20 years. A mutating Creative Sector Masterplan has existed since 1997 and has been subsequently fed into by widespread consultation between groups, experts, and international agencies. Many of the working Creative programmes in the public sector came from these lobbies. The initiatives here come from three places.

  1. They include many International Best Practice policy, legislative, institutional, and fiscal tools that EVERY single economy that has profited in the annual US$2.2 trillion dollar Creative Economy has implemented.
  2. Some are relevant indigenous proposals from past T&T Sector Masterplans
  3. Some are adaptations of programmes currently underway in international Best Practice markets to advance post-COVID Creative Economies.

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