Category Archives: Music

Music & music criticism

Kery James The Enunciator: Portrait of a hip-hop legend in the making

He creates more drama with a single camera and an off-stage mike than a B-movie shoot-up in monochromatic shade.  With the ease of an orator channeling a fire he has made peace with – Kery James lays into the sluggish beat of “Thug Life“,  marking his lyrical accents with the precision of a prized pugilist.  The camera zooms in to frame a face straight out of Africa’s mythical past.

He is Janet Jackson’s Hounsou Djimon – to wit  Hounsou Djimon with muscularity of the lyrical kind;  or  Shabba Ranks flashing “Tight Grip” chic sans the urbane-but-sinewy rhymes of the millenial wunderkind. And yes,  like Hounsou Djimon or Shabba Ranks’, James’ facial template has the iconic-talismanic power of  a relic straight  out of a  archaeo-anthropological scrap book.

Kery James as Nostradamus

Alix Mathurin, a.k.a. Kery James as "sui generis" urban griot, a latter day Nostradamus hurling dark quartrains about les damnes de la terre. The hard-core stylings of his earlier incarnation are history, but the urgency of his delivery remains the same.

Unlike Mack “le Couteau“: He flashes white without a trace of blood but still  evokes memories of the Maroons and the Mau Mau  – even when sporting a Tommy Hilfiger get-up.  Stereotype? Perhaps, but it goes deeper than that. The nervousness surrounding James’ hard core stylings and  Muslim beliefs, is rooted in a reactive subconscious and the perception  of James as a particularly potent medium and messenger. When he intones  about “ma conviction“, the French powers that be want to know what that “conviction” is, because all of a  sudden Marshall McLuhan’s medium has  found a messenger with overkill effect – and where hip-hop is concerned, this is as potentially subversive as the Maroons or the Mau Mau.  (The same story played itself out with hard core groups like N.W.A. and others in the U.S.A. )


Kery James Chronology

  • 1977 – Born Alix Mathurin in Les Abymes, Guadelope, West Indies, December 28, 1977.
  • 1985 – Comes to France and starts to rap
  • 1989 – James  begins rapping out of  the Paris suburb of Orly.  He gets noticed by MC Solaar who decides to feature him on his  1991  debut album “Qui Sème le Vent Récolte le Tempo”.
  • 1990 – Kery James becomes a member of the Ideal Junior group with DJ Mehdi.
  • 1992 – Idéal Junior releases the 12″ single,  “La Vie Est Brutale”  on the French dance label On the Beat.
  • 1996 – The James/DJ Mehdi duo shortens its name to just Idéal J  and  release the eponymously named “Ideal J” album.
  • 1998 –  The duo releases its second full album entitled “Le Combat Continue”.
  • 1999 – Las Montanas, one of James’ childhood friends is shot and killed. Kery James places his career on hiatus and takes sanctuary in the Islamic faith that had been the matrix of his childhood years.
  • October 2001 – Kery James comes out with the first solo album “Si c’était à refaire”. It breaks into the top five albums on the French charts. Although the album is self-titled, it marks the first time he has recorded with a major record company: Warner Brothers. The album is a personal testament, that also marks James’ turning from his more hard-core stylings of the past.
  • 2003 -Kery James reunites with Mafia K’1 for the album “La Cerise Sur le Ghetto”.
  • 2004 – Kery records his second solo album “Ma vérité” which is released the following year.
  • 2008 – James records his third album “À l’ombre du show business” which reaches number three on the French charts. By 2008, James had done a total of 54 collaborations with other artists in the short space of seven years.


The real Kery James

The Real Kery James: A hip-hop legend in the making. Notice we did not say "French" because that would be misleading and just plain wrong. Kery James hip-hop's post-millenial shot in the arm and Francophonic flavor to savor.

If the French hip-hop exhibits the robustness, spit and polish of American hip-hop, it is because of its roots and origins. Latter day musical historians place the birth of French hip right about the early 80’s fueled by the racial, colonial and urban experiences  of North African and Caribbean immigrants.  This places the emergence of French hip-hop, which, according to Andre J.M. Prevos,  is an amalgam of  Euro-French and Francophone strains, soon after the initial flowering of hip-hop in the United States in the late 70’s.  Prevos places the first recordings of French hip-hop around 1982 and 1983 with the release of a 12 inch b-side by Fab Freddy. (Further citations needed). The unmanned sonic landing of American hip-hop in France was followed by a tour of Europe by a group of American rappers in 1982. Some of them performed in France and ignited the already nascent ambers of the genre. The themes of racism and marginalization in the HLM (habitation à loyer modéré), the so-called affordable high-rises which are the French approximations of American projects or ghettoes, basically resonated with Les Damnés de la Terre.

The rise of Kery James intersects with that of the first French hip-hopper to make it big, MC Solaar, a Senegalese immigrant, who met James in 1989 and featured him on his first solo album in 1991.

Against this background, Kery James has emerged as  something of a prodigy and seminal figure in his own right by virtue of his grasp of the hip-hop genre. Rapping in a language that has a surfeit of soft consonants James has excelled at forging a style that is as hard as it is articulate.  He doesn’t just trip out his rhymes, he spits them out with the precision of an orator who is hell bent on impaling you with every vowel,  every consonant and every sound. And he does this all with the gravity of a jail-warden on execution day.  So commanding is James’ demeanor on-camera that he often requires little to minimal props in his videos – holding court and cutting loose with flow that has  the weight Nostradamic  quartrains. This is what Busta Rhymes was aiming for in his millenial trilogy(When Disaster Strikes, Extinction Level Event and Anarchy) but never quite  pulled it off for lack of gravitas.

(This article is far from complete. More material will be added soon. Meanwhile, check out some of Kery James tracks on here (The website may allow you one full  listen per track after which it may ask you to register with a valid  e-mail. We haven’t tested this out out yet …. ):

copyright© 2009

Associated Videography:

Thug Life – A monochromatic paean to the streets (With English subtitles):

Kery James – Lettre a mon public

Kery James – Je Represente

N’incite Pas Bakar Feat. Kery James:

Kery James – Le Combat continue part 3 – Mafia k1 Fry:

Kery James – Banlieusards:

Kery james – Y’a pas de couleur pour pleurer:

Kery James – Pleure en Silence:

Kery James – En Sang Ble:

Kery James – En Allah Jai Foi (Dieu):

Infernally dope-adelic: Oxmo Puccino, Kery James & Rohff – “Pourquoi Tu Parles Comme ça?” (Why are you talking like that?)


Global Noise: Rap and Hip-hop Outside the USA – Edited by Tony Mitchell

Hip-hop and Rap in Europe: The culture of the urban ghettoes

J.Lo, Oh Ma Lord: Evidence of salacious intent

Evidence that God (the God of creation) is a dirty old man with a three-day stubble. The result? Jennifer “J.Lo” Lopez ……. letting it all hang out like the future of the planet depended on it. Perhaps it does Babu, PER-haps it does 🙂


PREACHER BUTTS: But where da boobs?

DEACON JONES: Who cares, when yuh got Aaah#SNEEZE#! for days?

PREACHER BUTTS: Good answer deacon, good answer! Someone give de Lord a hand!







Jimi Hendrix’s Purple Haze: An Old Chestnut Done In Technicolor

I never liked “Purple Haze” by Jimi Hendrix until I heard a cover of it on “In From The Storm” – an all-star tribute  with good ol’ Buddy Miles flipping a vocal behind a trip-hopped beat and a full orchestra. If you are someone who never liked the thump-thump-chunk-chunk vibe of the original version, you should definitely check this one out. There is mercurial gold behind that ol’ chestnut,  thanks to good ol’ Billy and the genius of the conceptualizer/arranger who is not specifically mentioned in the CD liner notes.

Jimi Hendrix, trip-hop and strings. Who would have thunk?

The personnel features Buddy Miles on lead and background vocals – the man who distinguished himself with a free-wheeling vocal chants  on “Who Knows” and “Them Changes”.

The legendary Bootsy Collins is featured on bass, drum loops and effects as well as background vocal. Bernie Worrell play clavinet and D.D. plays rhythm guitar. Michael Hill plays guitar and Steve Lukather lights up this mother with his guitar solos. Dennis Chambers plays drums.

The cut was recorded at Jimi’s  Electric Lady Studios in New York by Eddie Kramer & Joe “Primo” Pirrera with additional recording at Bootzilla Productions. The lush orchestral arrangements were done by Bernie Worrell and the recording was done at the Martin Erskine Studio, in New York.

The full  “Purple Haze” clip that was at imeem has since been moved. We will post one as soon as we locate it.

Hendrix's "Purple Haze" in authentic technicolor: An old gem from an old master ... buffed and polished.

Hendrix's "Purple Haze" in authentic technicolor: An rough gem from an old master ... buffed, polished and left to glisten in the sun. A definite must listen ...

And for good measure, here is Buddy Miles, flipping a vocal on “Them Changes” like it was going out of style (Fillmore East, NY,  New Year’s eve 1969-70)

RIP J Dilla: I Try

“Sickness” as one fan put it. Nuff said.

Ill Beats and Sick Rhymes: Common’s Thelonius Feat. Slum Village

(If video has been removed, surf for “Thelonius by Common” on Youtube or Google)

This is the sh*ts right here; a hip-hop classic which should be required listening for all aspiring M.C.s; dope beats and ill rhymes that grab you by the lapels and bitch-slap you till you cry uncle. Noone can fake this because it is un-fakeable.

This is structured like an Egyption step pyramid from the opening lines to the 2nd MC who ups the ante at 0.28″ with what sounds like a hook, but its not – its just the hard hitting that makes it sound like a hook beyond the line complexity.  Next step up:  check out how Common cuts in on the 3rd stanza like a boss at  1.22. Same M.O. same effect, lines that sound like hooks when they really are not. From his first line at 1.22, Common’s accents carve dramatic space in between them before he cuts loose from at 1.35″ to float above the beats like a Ninja …… playin’ above the rim like a Michael Jordan.  Common spits on the track  like he owns it (which goes without saying.)  This is patented mellifluous flow that never lets you forget who the boss is. Common’s delivery projects easy presence and authority which are Common stylistic trademarks.

Mega props to Common and Slum Village for this gem.  It totally  rules the roost!

Thelonius – Common Feat. slum village (Lyrics)

Ha, yeah, yeah
Uhh, yeah, yeah, play at your own risk
Act like you know bitch I’m on some grown shit
Ha, yeah, yeah, play at your own risk
Act like you know bitch I’m on some grown shit
It’s the Thelonious, super microphonist
You know us, this rap shit we ’bout to own it
You know it, these mini-mes try to clone us
I got a bonus for the bitch that run up on us
I got a bonus for your bitch that run up on us
It’s the Thelonious, super microphonist

Uhh, no time to sleep cuz if you sleep you don’t eat
Gotta hold heat, just to make ends meet
Niggas livin on the street while other niggas feast
Aight wit you it ain’t aight wit me
Right, gotta make money all my life
Gotta stay fuckin bitches many types
Yeah you know what I’m talkin ’bout
Yup, stay turnin these bitches out
Dick em down also dick em out
Throw somethin down whenever my dick’s out
They know me so they restructure and reroute
They know me from Washington to down South
All the way to London to my nigga Common’s house
Right, it’s like a game we never play out, out, out, out…

Nigga no doubt, nigga get live or get knocked the fuck out
Word up, just be about what you about dogg
Knowhatimsayin’, just play at your own risk
Act like you know bitch I’m on some grown shit
It’s the Thelonious, super microphonist
You know us, this rap shit we ’bout to own it
You know it.

You can feel it in your throat
Say it,
I’m ’bout to let my mind float
(com, say it)
Get your third eye poked
Fuck game, I assemble dope…
Ness, a nigga that’s fresh as the ’fess
Studied this rap shit, no need to mic test

You can feel it in your chest
Your b i, feel it in her breasts
Plus you, rhyme like a nigga wit his nipples pierced
We lick off lyrics in the streets and real niggas hear us
Dreamin when I wrote this, box me if I go too wild
Still doin this shit like dude in wild style
Invitin wack niggas to dinner
I trick daddy emcees and I don’t know, nann nigga
Who can take it where I take it
You better go into God like Mase did
Leavin crowds complacent
I move em above clouds whether on some ? surface the earth? shit
Or thug style you can feel it in your body
Yeah y’all you can feel it in your body

Like if a 12 gauge shottie shell hit your body
You don’t want no one to find your ass a hobby
Carbon copy, niggas tryin to clone us
You know us, Thelonious, super microphone
You know this, rap shit we ’bout to own it dun, for real

Ay, it’s like a ritual
You been invited let the ? ? stimulate the place
With the grace, nevertheless, I stress
Let the music put a smile on your face
As for the ritual, when it comes to spiritual excellence
You know I always leave you with the taste
I know you like it hard to the core
That’s what you ask for ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
Hurtin like a ? ? in that ass, like a ritual
Conversation with the most high makes me wanna cry
I wonder why, you wanna get to paradise
But that itty bitty part of you don’t wanna die
So pay attention to my word, cuz it’s the truth
Meditation ease the mind, and brings the youth
It’s like a verse you could never read out of a book
Darken the line and your mind like a fish hook
Word is birth, yo I do it till the break of day
Pay attention to your art, never go astray
Word is bond

Yo we do it and we don’t quit
Sucka nigga you don’t want it, it’s Thelonious
Ownin this rap shit, super microphonist, and we known to spit
I spit fire like Esther on Sanford and Son did
I’m raw dude, more juice than Sunkist
You want this, so MJ kept sayin the rhyme flawless
Shit fly like MJ in his prime, off the wall wit mines
I’m grabbin my balls when I rhyme, nine nines bustin plus
Ball all the time, now stay on your mind like great sex
You ain’t on my mind I’m thinkin ’bout paychecks
Niggas large like an adex avirex jacket
Yo the gods they bust like latex sex packets
Emcees they don’t rhyme and ball, they lyin’ to y’all
They dyin’ to ball, the rhyme we do all the time
We do all the fine bitches they fall in lines
Me and my mans is somethin like the source sports
We gettin money a long time and y’all short
My niggas bounce and full rise and y’alls fall
You funny doo, cuz really you think you can do me
When you roll a 500 that’s really a 320
Should of let somebody else hook it
Numbers look crooked like King Kong shook it
I’m from where niggas bang gats when they celebrate
That’s how they play, don’t let it be a holiday
Thelonious niggas, if you testin us we get you laid back
Show you the definition of a pay back.”

(Common “Thelonius” Feat. Slum Village)

An Unsung Ode to Selena Quintanilla-Perez, 1971-1995

[Copyright© 2009 – CRX @]

An Unsung Ode to Selena Quintanilla-Perez, 1971-1995: An unapologetic celebration of  Selena from an alternate space; a cloistered garden where silences have talismanic powers to heal – CRX

[With Music]


I have pondered the death of  Selena in the listless hours between remembrance and oblivion and come to the conclusion – the inescapable conclusion – that Selena will live forever because she represented something in all of us that did not die in the weening  hours of March 31st, 1995.

Beyond skepticism, beyond cynicism,
Selena was the incarnation of goodness
That lives,  moves and has its  being amongst men;
The every-woman with the heart of gold
Who refused to see evil until the very end.

Selena Quintanilla-Perez, 15 Years Later – Still “Una Mujer Del Pueblo”: “She never forgot she was Chicana. She never forgot she was Tejana,” ( 15th anniversary celebrant, March 31, 2010)

She will live forever because she represented
the joy of youth  that gives without stinting:

“When she laughed,
she laughed harder
Than anyone I knew.
And when she cried
She cried harder
Than anyone I knew.”
(Christopher Perez)
The one she called
“El amor de mi vida”
To her sister’s
Me mejor amiga,”
Why do words fail?

Por siempre Selena

Throughout her life she sought happiness
And ways to spread it, and reveled in both.
It was never about the music, but life
Unencumbered by the trappings of  fame and fortune.
Selena will always be the plucky little girl  in “Little House on the Prairie,” 
Trippin’ and fallin’  and pickin’ herself up,
Running,  always running towards love.  (Selah)

But WERE there  moments  of shadow and doubt,
Quiet interludes of fear and trepidation
Twixt the montage of a woman-child having a  ball.

Her favorite flower was white.

“Oftentimes the pure white rose
was depicted as being stained by blood,
or made to blush from a kiss.”
(The  History and Meaning of
White Roses, Samantha Green)

Was Selena, beyond the smiles,  in touch with the pall of her impending doom?

Princesa Azteca

Framed by silk  and a singular curl, here she lies,
As beautifully regal in death as she was in life,
Up on this paneled dais in surreal estate;
Intimations of Aztec royalty unsung
The same that came and left us in the  Spring.

Beyond wishing, her soul rests
Within and without like a garden:
And ethereal;
The embodiment of that which remains
Long after time and circumstance
Has swept away the engrams of sorrow and regret,
For in the larger scheme of things
This too shall pass. (Selah)

Selena - Bouquet with Rose - Corpus Christi Caller Times

The now iconic image of Selena taken by Mr. George Gongora of the Corpus Christi Caller-Times on November 14, 1994, a scant 4 ½ months before Selena was killed. The bouquet of flowers had just been given to her following an educational presentation at the Cunningham Middle School in Corpus Christi, TX.

Pass when Selena is born again
(As she already has)
With a bouquet and a smile
that will now remain forever young.

“Smart (lass*), to slip betimes away
From fields where glory does not stay,
And early though the laurel grows
It withers quicker than the rose.”
(*’Lass’ substituted for ‘lad’ in original)

Journey to Corpus – Like  “Journey to Addis

Through rococco bursts of color and artifact
We  squeaked through the eye of the needle and left our hearts in Corpus Christi,
This crusted city by the Nueces, atop the  Rio Grande; our destination
By the bay,
By “Mirador de la Flor
The “Overlook of the Flower
‘Neath the salt showers.

Here she stands
in muted tones of bronze
and a storied laurel.

Selena at Mirador De La Flor

Selena Quintanilla, incandesced by night lights waxing gold at Mirador De La Flor, “The Overlook of the Flower, ‘Neath the salt showers.” Corpus Christi, TX  – arguably the most sentient depiction of Selena’s statue.

Observación: The ordinariness of this memento belies the broadside; the shiver that one feels upon first approach.  Something happened here too  – something which moved heaven and earth beneath this ornamented promenade; the voice the City of Corpus heard above the din “of the madding crowd.” Abraham and Marcella’s little girl now belongs to the ages. The greened bronze belies the moment, but we are here to bear witness:

For here in this cloistered cove by The Bay
We are about to beat an ancient drum,
To an athlete who died  young.

Selena para las edades.

Lake Jackson,
Corpus Christi
Houston Astro.

We go back but return to celebrate the living,
Because that is what Selena did … with her song. CRX

Selena Quintanilla Grave, Seaside Memorial Park, Corpus Christi, TX, Copyright, Texas Tripper, LLT Media Group

Seaside Memorial Park, garden of Selena Quintanilla’s earthly rest in Corpus Christi, TX, a stone’s throw from Corpus Christi Bay & downtown Corpus. (© Texas Tripper, LLT Media Group)

Memorial spectra of Selena .... Like a garden, vital, verdant and ethereal - 1920x1200 PIX

Selena Quintanilla spectral mind space ….. “Like a garden vital, verdant and ethereal; The embodiment of that which remains, Long after time and circumstance, Has swept away the engrams of pain and regret . (Unsung Ode to Selena Quintanilla-Perez, CRX, Cyberaxis)

[Copyright© 2009 – CRX @]

México Remembers Selena

Here in this album clip, 10 years after the death of Selena, 15 Mexican stars revisit the scene of collective heartbreak with a musical elegy that proves once again that nothing outside of the human voice can out-wail  the horn and the accordion when it comes to expressing grief. The best track of this comp is this rousing rendition of “No Me Queda Mas” by Palomo. The band pulls off the feat by slowing everything down to a funereal but stately beat (tempo maestoso indeed.)  This stylistic sleight of hand transforms the song,  once about unrequited teen love,  into an anthem of universal longing; a paean to loss untrammeled by flights of fancy …. or romance. As musical hat tricks go, this one ends up being quite stunning.

Album cover of

Stately musical elegy to the late Selena Quintanilla-Perez: Album cover of “Mexico Recuerda a Selena”; definitive minuet of heartbreak.

Following the Google Doodle of October 17, 2017, Selena finally gets  a star of her own, in on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on November 3, 2017:

Selena Quintanilla, A star of gold in a firmament of her own

And finally a star of gold, in a firmament all of her own: Selena Quintanilla-Perez receives a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on November 3, 2017. Post: Unsung Ode to Selena Quintanilla-Perez (Colorized Image Insert by Santi Singuenza, Courtesy, Selena Museum)

[Copyright© 2009 – CRX @]


And The Best Die Young: The short life and death of Selena Quintanilla-Perez (CRX)

To An Athlete Dying Young (A.E. Housman, 1859)

Visitors mark anniversary of Selena’s death (Doreen  C.  Bowens – Corpus Christi Caller Times, April 1, 1999)

“All the wonders you seek are within yourself.” (Sir Thomas Browne)

“For in him we live and move and have our being.” (St. Paul)

I Wanna Know What Love Is (Lucky Dube) When the time comes, I will tell you what place I was entering when this song started playing …….. Absolutely true story, like squeaking through the eye of the needle.

I Wanna Know What Love Is (Foreigner)

Now That We Found Love (Third World)

Third World, Journey to Addis, Now That We Found Love - Album Cover Design: Tony Wright

Journey to Corpus – Like Journey to Addis: Third World, Now That We Found Love, Island Records, Album Cover Design: Tony Wright (2288×2448 PIX)


A 23rd Anniversary Musical Dedication: An achingly poignant rendition of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Scaborough Faire” by  The Real Feel’s John Raymond, Gilad Hekselman and Colin Stranahan.  If the link breaks, Google them to Youtube. This song, this rendition happened to be playing on my computer as I was reviewing this post on Selena’s 23 anniversary. R.I.P.

Unfiltered Reflections on the death of Michael Jackson(1958-2009)

There is a good reason why, beyond the initial shock of the first breaking news or the existential frisson of a great spirit passing into the great beyond, the death of Michael Jackson was not shocking .  People who had been in touch with the particulars of Michael Jackson’s life, had seen this coming for quite some time; from Michael himself, through Lisa Marie Presley and the nurse who had despaired of the Jackson’s desperate pleas  for an anesthetic drug so potent that it is only used in controlled hospital settings.  And yes,  like  Elvis of old, the  Michael Jackson the world had come to know and love, had  “died” long before his heart gave out on June 25, 2009.  Nothing in life happens without telegraphing itself in some way, shape or form. The imagery of the pop star’s last days had never portended anything but sickness and frailty.  Beyond that garish imagery lay a private hell so dark & deep (like a black hole) that nothing could escape it.

(Read Lisa Marie Presley’s candid comments on her Myspace Blog or in the CNN article, “Presley: Jackson knew his fate.”)

Michael Jackson 1958 - 2009

Michael Jackson 1958 – 2009

If you are an inverterate skeptic, consider this for a quick minute: Secondary references to “Michael’s body” after initial news of his death broke,  came with almost zero shock value. This was quite astounding and a telling giveaway of the idiosyncrasy or anomaly at the heart of Michael Jackson’s life in its post Thriller incarnation.  Normally there is shock when a person’s living memory is first redacted to a body by reference. This was not the case in Michael Jackson’s case. It’s almost as if in his post Thriller period, Michael had bifurcated and split from his physical body;  the same body that had, through the years, been subjected to  mind-warping mutations & transformations even as the world watched. So in the public mind, the body had been shed and redacted to a prop on a stage or a mimetic character out of the imagination of a Marcel Marceau.

Marcel Marceau: Mime for the Ages - The Master from whom Michael Jackson learned to moonwalk.

Mime of the Ages, Marcel Marceau: The Master from whom Michael Jackson learned the legendary moonwalk.

The corporeal had unceremoniously been split from the incorporeal.

Confronting Michael’s memories in unmoderated extremis: Michael Jackson was headed for uncontested sainthood until the child molestation charges that landed him in a Los Angeles courtroom. The acquittal did nothing to clear his name in the courts of public opinion, nor did the interviews that painted him either as  a conniving mofo or someone who was criminally naive about how adults should behave around children. Sharing a bed with children that were not his own was never O.K. And his appropriation of phrases that could be interpreted as euphemisms of pedophilia, never helped Michael’s case. (Check out transcripts of his interview with Martin Bashir. Caveat: Martin Bashir is a certifiable maggot, but what Michael Jackson disclosed in those interviews did more to damage his public case and persona than Bashir’s oily sleaze.)

The Burden of Genius: The death of Michael Jackson has catapulted the world straight back into the  mercurial world he created; a world that had been sidelined by  more current forms and styles of entertainment that had subsumed or appropriated his seminal genius. Without hype this was a world of pure genius from the pristine warbling of a precocious teen in “I’ll be there” to the disco stylings “Rock With You” or pop-rock aspirations of “Black or White“, Michael Jackson had distinguished himself as a “savant-garde” interpreter whose instincts rarely failed him.

Underneath the glitz and glamour: The burden of genius.

Underneath the glitz: The burden of genius.

He was an entertainer with a capital “E”. But that all came at an enormous cost.  Historically, this syndrome has gone by many names, from Faustian bargain to divine madness. Michael Jackson’s creativity knew no bounds, extending as it did from his music through his image making factory (the white glove, the white glove!) and down to his own body. By the time it got to the latter,  it was displaying darker shades of dysmorphia laced with race-inflected disaffection. To be fair, this is nothing new on  the Americo-Caribbean landscape with the only exception in Michael Jackson’s case being that it played itself out on a stage larger than the entire hemisphere combined. The bottom-line reality was that while Michael was crooning “If you’d be my babe it don’t matter if you black or white” while slowly transforming his actual physical appearance from a bulb-nosed black dude to a white woman of  his latter day incarnation. Michael’s reluctance to come clean on this and the apparent bleaching of his skin will stand as one of the ways he refused to address an issue of immense public relevance.

Newsweek’s David Gates has an interesting take on this:

No wonder, either, that the artifice eventually turned scary, and the face of the icon came to look more and more corpselike. Readers of Toni Morrison’s latest novel, A Mercy, might recall the passage in which an African woman tells about her first sight of white slavers: “There we see men we believe are ill or dead. We soon learn they are neither. Their skin is confusing.” That’s the middle-aged Michael Jackson to a T. Jackson arguably looked his “blackest” on the original cover of 1979’s Off the Wall; by Thriller, the transformation had begun. Off the Wall was his declaration of manhood: it came out the year he turned 21, and it was his greatest purely musical moment. Why did he feel so deeply uncomfortable with himself? The hopeless task of sculpting and bleaching yourself into a simulacrum of a white man suggests a profound loathing of blackness. If Michael Jackson couldn’t be denounced as a race traitor, who could? Somehow, though, black America overlooked it, and continued to buy his records, perhaps because some African-Americans, with their hair relaxers and skin-lightening creams, understood why Jackson was remaking him-self, even if they couldn’t condone it. (Michael Jackson: The Man in the Mirror – David Gates with Raina Kelley – July 13, 2009)

To be continued …..

copyright© 2009

Appendix: Lisa Marie Presley – (Michael Jackson) Knew

As I sit here overwhelmed with sadness, reflection and confusion at what was my biggest failure to date, watching on the news almost play by play The exact Scenario I saw happen on August 16th, 1977 happening again right now with Michael (A sight I never wanted to see again) just as he predicted, I am truly, truly gutted.

Any ill experience or words I have felt towards him in the past has just died inside of me along with him.

He was an amazing person and I am lucky to have gotten as close to him as I did and to have had the many experiences and years that we had together.

I desperately hope that he can be relieved from his pain, pressure and turmoil now.

He deserves to be free from all of that and I hope he is in a better place or will be.

I also hope that anyone else who feels they have failed to help him can be set free because he hopefully finally is.

The World is in shock but somehow he knew exactly how his fate would be played out some day more than anyone else knew, and he was right. (Lisa Marie Presley  – Myspace)