Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Vibe Bracket Podcasts

Since Da Lake Squad was prominently featured in this epic argument, we got a special guest post on from the seveneighteen scholars. Enjoy good people!

(NOTE: The second half of The Vibe Racket: Part II podcast is available. Scroll to the end of the page.)

Welcome to the nitty gritty.

Last time, we just ripped the bracket to shreds.

This time , welcome to the All-Star podcast: Streetz, Radio The Rahim, Bobby Drake and yours truly filled out Vibe’s bracket to determine the Best Rapper Ever…while ripping it to shreds.

Highlights include:

Did a certain Harlem rapper have a ghostwriter early in his career?
Take everything you hear from a Queens native about a Queens native with a few grains of salt.
The LL Cool J-Canibus battle revisited.
Which top 5-seeded rapper(s) got a 1st round knockout?
Who didn’t deserve a #1 seed?
Over/under on pause/no homo/no rainbow/that’s what she said references: 32

And a special guest appearance from our favorite correctional officer.

To follow along with the actual Vibe bracket, go here.

The podcast was so crazy we had to split it into two parts. Check out Part 1 here.

UPDATE!!!: Part 2 of the podcast now available! Click here.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Start Snitchin'

Unlike the vast majority of my team, from the Lake Squad to the Seveneighteen scholars, I am a happily married man. Before I met the woman that I am making my life with, I was in fulfilling and loving relationships. I learned important things from each of the women that I was with (don’t worry, a breakdown for each one is forthcoming, so look out for that) that have allowed me to be the best man that I can be for the woman that I am going to love until the end of my days.

I am reminded of these invaluable lessons each time I hear people talk about their relationship issues. I was having a conversation with a friend today that took me to a very interesting place. It reminded me that I need everyone out there to know something about me. Yes, I have a confession to make. I’ll try to keep it succinct:

Hi, my name is Coach Phil and I am a snitch.

I know all my hood ninjas out there just threw up in their collective mouths, just a little bit, but let me explain… I am a snitch when it comes to the woman I love.

I’ll set the scene up for you.

In undergrad, I was never really too much of a smizzle with mine. I did what I did with the ladies, but I usually kept my goings on close to the vest and out of the guise of the general public. Don’t get me wrong, I did me, but discretion was paramount.

I had a summer fling with a woman that, in hindsight, I completely underestimated. She was quiet and poetic, eclectic, and honestly, a bit weird. Definitely physically attractive too (slim with 36Cs and a modest backside), but if you asked me how we ended up kicking it, I would seldom be able to give you a straight answer. But kick it we did, all summer long.

As expected, when the school year commenced, we started to drift apart. There was the occasional run-in, but nothing nearly on par with our summertime gallivanting. Since I found myself well under the salary cap (read single), I felt comfortable offering 10-day contracts to a couple of interested females. After try-outs concluded, I found myself unexpectedly wifed-up. Did my summertime fling give a fourteenth of a fuck about my change in status?


I get a seemingly innocent call from her one afternoon, requesting my presence at her spot to talk. I consider this request innocuous for 3 reasons:

1) Over the course of the summer, we had indeed become friends. Weird as she was, I valued her opinion, and even at the conclusion of our fling, I found her perspective interesting and refreshing. I assumed the feeling was mutual.
2) Her roommate, who was ALWAYS in the spot, was one of my newfound wifey’s closest friends. In other words, streets was watching and I would be damn if I got caught up on some stupid ish.
3) It really was the middle of the afternoon, no later than like 3:00 PM.

For those reasons, I oblige without a second thought.

I get to her spot.

Knock on the door.

“COME IN!” She exclaims.

I open the door, go inside, and it is dark, with the only light coming from a series of flickering candles. My spider sense is starting to tingle.

She is not in the living room so I call her name. I hear her voice, more softly now, beckoning me to come to her room. My spider sense is throbbing urgently at this point.

On the way to her room I notice that her roommate is nowhere to be found. Spider sense is at Defcon 1.

So I apprehensively head to her room…

To find her…



Wearing nothing but lotion and candlelight.

“I missed you,” she purrs.

Now before I continue, there is something that you should know about me. I have NEVER, EVER, EEEEEEEEEEEEEEVER, put the pussy on a pedestal. I have always subscribed to the Drizzy Drake philosophy, “Pussy is only pussy, and I get it when I need it.” So the normal male reaction (i.e. start thinking with the head between your legs rather than the one on your shoulders) just was not in play.

Did I like what I saw?

You damn right.

Did I let what my eyes were drinking in, and the building excitement of my smaller head rule the day?

Absolutely not.

I won’t front like I lectured her on compromising my situation or, for that matter, even told her to put her clothes on. I just laughed, said “Wow, you look amazing,” and bounced.

When I got back to the crib, I did 2 things:
1) Called one of my boys (the most discrete one) and told him the entire story verbatim.
2) Called wifey and got to snitchin!!!!

So what happened?

Wifey listened to the story, secretly started an unrequited blood feud with young fling, and that was the end of it.

All because I was smart enough to snitch.

My reasoning is simple. First, whatever possessed summer fling to come at me like that could easily possess her to make some shit up about how it played out. Second, though I was in the nascent stages of this relationship, I was really feeling wifey, and I wanted to build on a foundation of trust. Third, and probably most importantly, I was acutely aware of my own culpability (fell through the crib of an ex fling dolo, noticed it was dark and candlelit and didn’t bounce immediately), and how my actions could be construed if I failed to get my version out first. Fourth and finally, you NEVER want there to be info out there about you and the opposite sex that your wife did not hear from you first. It’s just bad for business. The truth will set you free…

Do you think I did the right thing? Have you ever felt like snitchin’ was the right path for you? What would you have done in a similar situation? Holla at me peoples…

Friday, May 15, 2009

Reflection on Blacks in Higher Education

I wrote the bulk of this a while ago, but with everything going on in my life both professionally and academically I felt it was as good a time as any to revisit the subject. As always, I value your opinions so please comment. Anyway, here goes:

I am planning on studying for the LSAT and to retake the GRE this summer with hopes of giving myself some options after completing my Masters, and it has forced me to critically analyze my personal and professional goals for the next few years. That said, I got to thinking about higher education in the U.S. as a whole and the problems that continue to restrict the black community from the upper echelons of our eternally stratified society.

"Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor; Your Huddled Masses Yearning to Breathe Free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door." From the mind of Emma Lazarus, these words are found inscribed on the base of the Statue of Liberty; a warm invitation, a welcoming gesture to all nations and people, to come to the United States. For hundreds of years the citizens of every nation, tongue, and people have come to this country with the hope of a new opportunity, a new future.

The notion that a child born with the restrictive shackles of penury and persecution will be able to escape them through hard work and ambition remains a central idea in the self-portrait of the United States. The American parent makes an implicit pact with the country itself, with the sincere hope that this Land of Opportunity will enable their children to accomplish things beyond the scope of their greatest desires. Unfortunately, the reality of upward mobility in America is more problematic than the well-intentioned aspirations of those who call it home.

As the gap between rich and poor continues to widen, a closer examination of the policies and practices that led to our current state becomes increasingly necessary. A little more than half a century ago, Brown vs. Board of Education declared that racial segregation in public schools unconstitutionally denies students equal educational opportunities. Chief Justice Earl Warren submitted that "In these days, it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education."

Education continues to play a central role in the individual and collective elevation of historically marginalized populations, but I think that blacks have missed the point all too often. Let me be more specific. I know that for a number of the people that I have come in contact with (myself included), school is a means to an end. You want to make good money, so you need a college degree. Thus, when you get to school, wherever it may be, rather than studying those things that you are really interested in, you pigeonhole yourself into classes and majors that you think will lead you down the road to financial security. Along the way, some of us are lucky and actually find a talent and a passion for what we study in our quest to make money, but so many of us do not. There are a myriad of people that I know right now doing things that they hate, day in and day out, for a pay-check. Why is this?

So driven by their desires to obtain financial wealth, black students across the nation continue to subject themselves to unfulfilling and uninteresting curricula, throwing their passions by the wayside in the name of the almighty dollar. Additionally, entirely too many stop at their Bachelors degree when that degree is becoming about as valuable as a high school diploma in today’s marketplace. If we are to agree that education is the great equalizer and arbiter of opportunity in our society, we as blacks need to re-evaluate our dedication to education. It is essential that the mindset that allows us to shirk our talents and pursue money be nipped in the bud. It starts in the home and the school.

I can't speak for everyone, of course, but I know that I personally exerted this pressure on myself. I went to Villanova University on a full academic scholarship and majored in business. Why? Not for a transcendent love of business education and the academy. Not because I am a hard worker and was really interested in all of the fields I studied. I majored in Management Information Systems and Decision and Information Technology because I wanted to make money. Communications was the closest to aligning with my real interests, but I picked the other 2 because I needed the security of knowing that I could get a good paying job right out of college with my degree.

My real passions have always been writing and teaching. I love the way pen and pad can make ideas come to life. I love to share and discuss my ideas and opinions. I love transforming minds, alerting people up to new possibilities and ways of thinking. I love the look on someone’s face when they "get it". I should have double majored in education and communication, or maybe even journalism and education. However, teachers historically don't make good money, and it is very hard to break into high paying writing jobs. So my response? Major in Info Systems. There are high paying jobs. The average salary for someone who graduates with those degrees is about $45,000 to start. There are great opportunities for upward mobility.

I strongly believe that the reason there are not more African American faculty or even faculty that come from the lower socioeconomic backgrounds, is that the college education is widely misused. We, often the first generation of college students in our families, see the degree as a way to make moves up the social ladder through financial gain. So instead of doing things that interest us, whether through self-actualizing majors, or career pursuits in disciplines that we are personally passionate about, we place our real desires on the backburner and seek out careers where making good money is paramount. The would-be sociologist becomes an investment banker. The would-be biology teacher becomes a doctor. The would-be museum curator becomes an attorney. The would-be creative writer becomes a computer engineer.

In my college selection process, I applied widely because I had good guidance counselors and a mother that cared a great deal about me and believed in my potential to succeed. I applied to Princeton, Harvard, University of Pennsylvania, University of Southern California, UC Berkley, UCLA, Dartmouth, Brown, Villanova University, University of Delaware, Rutgers University and Carnegie Mellon. With a 4.0 and a 1560 on the SAT, I got accepted to every program (except Princeton still a little bitter about that because it was my first choice) but I went to Villanova because they offered me a full scholarship.

The Villanova Presidential Scholarship covered my room, board, tuition and books for 8 semesters of undergraduate study and was worth over $155,000. It made up my mind for me because it gave me an opportunity to get an excellent education without being a burden to my mother, a single parent who accrued seemingly endless debt raising three young men by herself. By going to college on scholarship, I could fill a number of important roles. I was a good student, a responsible son, and a good role model for my younger brothers.

I would love to see more opportunities for people of all backgrounds to attend school with little or no financial burden. Education's accessibility lies largely in the ability of individual party's to finance it. I struggle with this idea now as I seek ways to finance my Masters level education. I would be really interested to know what changes are being made to make post-baccalaureate education more accessible to people of lower socio-economic standing. Financial considerations should not continue to be a deterrent to higher education for highly qualified candidates, especially blacks. This discussion is exactly why I want to follow my Masters in Higher Education Management up with law school or a PhD. Serious knowledge and analysis of the policies and practices at work in our society are vital to begin the journey toward necessary change.

In a way, I hate that I conformed to expectations that were not even placed on me. I am happy to be where I am, and I would seldom change the experiences that helped me arrive in my current situation. However, I wish I had the personal fortitude to pursue my interests rather than doing what I felt was safe from the outset. In my recent trials, I have found that strength, and with it, I will dedicate the rest of my academic career to the pursuit of my passions. I will make sure that my children and my children's children can live lives doing what they really want to do. What is all the money in the world if you are not happy? What does it matter if you gain the world, if you lose your soul? I will break this vicious cycle, and the change will start, it must start, with me... today.