Tag Archives: RAS

I AM TROY DAVIS: 019 (Heavenly Down/Uploads)

For the next 346 days, I will be writing entries under the title, ‘I AM TROY DAVIS.’  Moved to pick up the pen not merely by Troy Anthony Davis‘ death/execution, but more so by his life/evolution, I hope that there are those out there who can relate.  If so, we must connect.  We are already connected.  Axé.

Ideas are heavenly downloads.  Prayers are heavenly uploads.  Whatever we think (upload) though our prayers/daily walk, comes back to us as ideas (downloads) that we can utilize to manifest our thoughts into reality.  Our bodies are the machines/vessels through which actions are made: after the download has been received.

Some downloads have viruses, or are corrupted, because we weren’t focused/attentive enough when we initially uploaded our intentions towards the heavens.  Other downloads contain the wrong software for the application needed.  Be careful of what you upload into your computer’s mainframe.  Try to keep it clean through meditation, daily exercise and stillness.

Constant activity (over-thinking) slows down your ability to process necessary downloads.  Ideas don’t come through thinking hard/processing information.  On the contrary, your best ideas usually come when you’re doing something totally mundane:  driving your car, sitting on the toilet, waiting for the bus, etc.

More on this later.  I just wanted to begin sharing my ideas/downloads more quickly, since I have been slow with the action of writing them down digitally.  My daily words and actions are my prayers.  My readers bear witness.  Amen.

My name is Jonathan ‘Jbro Mpeanaji’ Mahone, and I am one-half of (RAS) Riders Against the Storm.  I AM TROY DAVIS.

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I AM TROY DAVIS: 017 (It’s Heavy…D)

For the next 348 days, I will be writing entries under the title, ‘I AM TROY DAVIS.’  Moved to pick up the pen not merely by Troy Anthony Davis‘ death/execution, but more so by his life/evolution, I hope that there are those out there who can relate.  If so, we must connect.  We are already connected.  Axé.

It’s heavy how quickly things change.  Or, maybe, it’s just heavy when you actually sit and realize how much things have changed.  I don’t want to be overly-sentimental because I feel that this energy is very much related to becoming ‘old.’  And, even though I don’t consider myself old, I am starting to realize how much of a musical blessing my childhood really represented when compared to the current generation.

We (those of us raised in the 80s) were truly blessed to come from a generation that was influenced by the Civil Rights and Black Power movements of the 60s and 70s.  The records (yes, vinyl) that our parents played when their friends came over to hang out were Earth, Wind, and Fire, Parliament Funkadelic, James Brown, Grover Washington, Jr., Sly and the Family Stone, Anita Baker, Luther Vandross, Herbie Hancock, anything Motown, basically music with a heartbeat/soul to it.  It made you feel good.  It made you proud.  It gave you a place in the world.

Even though we were all on Michael Jackson, New Edition/Bobby Brown, Bell Biv Devoe (BBD), and more – deep down – we still had an appreciation for that ‘old stuff’ our parents played.  Being young (11 years old) in 1988, I was quick to move from artist to artist, as groups and songs got ‘played out,’ but I vividly remember being surrounded by an incredibly diverse spectrum of voices, each offering a different aspect of our Black experience. There weren’t a lot of outlets to hear these voices, so daily, we waited for BET’s Rap City, and magazines like Word Up, and The Source to find out about what was new and hot.

This is ‘back in the day’ when rap music wasn’t getting big Puff Daddy/Hype Williams budgets, or much respect as a genre at all.  RUN D.M.C. let corporations know that rap could profit, but the formulas weren’t in place for the creation of a rap mega/superstar.  M.C. Hammer came on the scene and changed all of that in ’88.   Dancing, and rapping hard, with an enormous stage show, Hammer took rap music to the charts in a major way.

Even though Hammer caught a lot of backlash for ‘crossing-over,’ his music was heavily dance-oriented like many hip hop groups in that day.  Watch the videos from that time, and you will see rappers, from Big Daddy Kane down to Digital Underground, dancing harder than a krump dancer on an electrified dance floor.  The party was part of the music; and our music reflected a vibrant, positive energy.

Enter the ‘Overweight Lover’ Heavy D.  He was a large (no pun intended) piece of this musical puzzle.  His songs were positive.  His lyrics were smooth.  His outfits were bright.  His music made you dance hard and feel good.  When his videos came on Yo! MTV Raps, or Rap City, there was absolutely no shame in getting up off the couch and jumping around in your socks like your feet were on fire.  That’s just what it made you feel like doing.  Your parents (if they were around) looked at you crazy as hell, but you didn’t care.

You just wanted to feel that energy.  There was something natural in the music that made you smile and pump your body.  There was no other way to go, but haaaaard.  Mama said knock you out!

I am thankful for this musical legacy because it left an imprint on my spirit.  It gave those of us that listened a chance to get free, and open, in a way that today’s music doesn’t.  The soul of Dwight Arrington Myers, otherwise known as Heavy D, shined through the darkness.  It wasn’t that times weren’t hard then.  It was just that Heavy, and a whole bunch of others, chose to rhyme through these  times with a little something to free us from our daily reality.  And this was cool.

Today, cool means you don’t smile.  Most of today’s pop-rappers are overly- obsessed with what designer they are wearing, how much weed they smoked, how much liquor they sipped, how many women they touched, and how much their chain sparkles.  Cool means you just don’t give a f##k.  And, we can’t blame the rappers either.  They learned to be ‘all about the benjamins’ in a world where ‘money ain’t a thing’ because ‘cash rules everything around me.’

Capitalism rules.  And today’s rap audience doesn’t hunger to party the same way we once did.  It’s heavy.  Things change.

It’s not that we didn’t want money or fame in Heavy’s day.  But, we also wanted more than that.  We wanted to be respected on our terms.  Respect today is dictated by numbers on youtube, record sales, and blog hype.  Artists come and go a lot faster.  And the music?  Well, it is what it is: a product to be consumed.

Thank you Heavy D.  Your positive energy and vibration lives on in us.  We remember that music is more than a hustle/game.  Life can be a hustle for sure, but it is also beautiful.  The music you made reminded us of our better selves, expressing a deeper love that is missing today.  Missing, but never forgotten. Axé.

My name is Jonathan ‘Jbro Mpeanaji’ Mahone, and I am one-half of (RAS) Riders Against the Storm.  I AM TROY DAVIS.

I AM TROY DAVIS: 008-012 (The Flow…)

For the next 357 days, I will be writing entries under the title, ‘I AM TROY DAVIS.’  Moved to pick up the pen not merely by Troy Anthony Davis‘ death/execution, but more so by his life/evolution, I hope that there are those out there who can relate.  If so, we must connect.  We are already connected.  Axé.

This blog post contains five entries so that I may stay true to my commitment of 365 posts in 365 days.  Due to the natural flow of life, it’s definitely not going to be possible for me to write something everyday, but I will try.  Even with my best efforts, I still have two more entries to catch up on.  Thanks for reading and sharing!

Entry 008 – Direction(s)

I know it has been a minute since I last sat down at this computer to type my thoughts, but trust and believe I/we have been busy.  There are a lot of things in motion that will be revealed later.  With this in mind, we must always remember to honor the process of revelation.  –> READ MORE…

Entry 009: A Call to Rod Starz (of Rebel Diaz)

On Monday night, I was pacing around our house, trying to process this whole Occupy Wall Street movement.  After hours of reading posts, watching videos, and viewing photos online, I felt the need to reach out to some of my peoples in NYC.  –> READ MORE…

Entry 010: The meeting

Basically, on Wednesday, October 5th, I just wanted to bring Black and Brown folks together to talk about Occupy Wall Street.  An Occupy Austin was planned for the following day, and I wanted to know what other people were thinking/feeling.  There really aren’t many public spaces to have this type of discussion, so I just created one real quick.  –> READ MORE…

Entry 011: Jbro Mpeanaji

So, I noticed the other day that most of my favorite rappers/mcs have either last names, or two names:  Tupac Shakur, Mos Def, André 3000, Tiger Lily, Talib Kweli, Lupé Fiasco, Wise Intelligent, the list goes on.  This was a very interesting fact that led me to a revelation: I need a last/second name.  Jbro Mahone doesn’t quite roll off the tongue.  –> READ MORE…

Entry 012: Decolonize Everything

What do you think of this image?  Can you relate?  Yesterday, I walked around all day with this poster attached to a long pole at Occupy Austin.  For some folks (Black, or otherwise), it provoked nods of approval, for others it brought confused stares. –> READ MORE…


I AM TROY DAVIS: 008 (Directions)

I know it has been a minute since I last sat down at this computer to type my thoughts, but trust and believe I/we have been busy.  There are a lot of things in motion that will be revealed later.  With this in mind, we must always remember to honor the process of revelation.

At one point during this past week, I was frustrated because I just couldn’t find the rhythm that would allow me to keep up with my commitment of one entry/post per day.  When I was home, I didn’t have the chi/energy to put my thoughts into written language.  Still, there was this strong need to make it happen because I ardently believe in keeping my commitments.

My Libra energy/astrology requires balance, so I am always super-conscious – at times to a fault – of my personal responsibilities/duties (as a husband, artist, writer, brother, son, etc.).  If I said I was going to do it, it’s got to get done.  Period.

Overall, this can be a good thing.  But, it can also be a burden.  Especially, if whatever you are doing is externally motivated.  The drive to get things done has to emerge from inside (internally).  If not, we often feel that we have to force the issue.  When energy is forced, things tend to fall apart, or crumble due to the extreme pressure we put into our action(s).

There is no real failure.  We don’t fail.  Goals just aren’t accomplished.  When this happens, you have to examine the why of what happened, not dwell in a perceived loss.  Whatever you think you may have lost occurred to make you a stronger person.  You never know what you really had until it’s gone, right?

No matter how much encouragement and positive feedback I get from people who read this, I don’t write for anyone but me.  I know that my thoughts will resonate with others because I am no different than anyone else.  There are a lot of people that feel like I do.  They may not write their thoughts down, or create art, but they feel like me.  I know this because we speak everyday: on the street, on the bus, at the party, at the meetings, etc.  Those that need/want to hear what I think will gravitate towards it.  Those that don’t, won’t.  Bottom-line: like Stephen Biko, ‘I Write What I Like.’

Liberation means living your life how you want to live it.  It means saying what you want, and being what you want.  Assata Shakur said, ‘I know a whole lot more about what freedom isn’t, than what it is.’  This truthful statement lives in the heart of most of us because we don’t know how to be ourselves. We don’t know why we are here.  We want answers, but we don’t take, or fail to create, the time necessary to find them.  Again, our responsibilities can get in the way.

Liberation is a journey, not a destination.  Do you want it?  Then, you will have to fight.  And, the toughest fight ain’t with the government, ‘the system,’ ‘yo momma and them, or anybody else.  The toughest fight is with yourself.  You have to go in, if you want to get out (part of the hook for some new RAS music).

Gradually, over the last 34 years, I have learned to respect and honor my responsibility to others, while also honoring my responsibility to me.  If I put God first, and move according to my heart’s call, all of those ‘responsibilities’ are filled without thought or planning.  Life isn’t always about ‘doing’ something.

Growing up, going to highly-competitive private schools in Pittsburgh, I learned to produce, and fill my time with activities.  Everything was about medals, honors, and certifications.  These things didn’t motivate me intrinsically, but they made other people (mainly my parents) happy, so I did them.  My father, who grew up economically impoverished (but, spiritually-rich), wanted his sons to have the education, opportunities, privileges, etc. that his generation couldn’t even dream of due to the racist structure of this country.

When I was accepted into some of the ‘top’ schools in this nation, he brimmed with joy.  But, overall, I wasn’t happy.  And, the funny thing was that I really didn’t even know it.  It took me years (and plenty of substance abuse) to realize I was living someone elses dream: I didn’t have my own.

So, after graduation, when I took my Ivy League degree, and went to work with youth in the South Side of Providence, my parents shrugged their shoulders.  When I turned down a prestigious Fulbright Scholarship to study abroad, they frowned.  When I got arrested and profiled after months of organizing for community oversight of the Providence Police, they worried.

It felt like I was walking alone in the dark for many years; but I continued, because somewhere in the depth of my spirit, everything was calm and certain.

Follow your heart.  It sounds cliché, but it’s real.  I wasn’t following the direction that my heart was calling for, so I suffered.  Suffering is not necessary.  We can find peace in the middle of a battlefield if we want it.  Everything is about choices.

When you choose to move with your heart, the world becomes a totally different place.  Yes, it is the same imperialist, racist, maniacal world, but you are moving through it with different eyes that are searching for truth.  You no longer feel the need to sit and critique all of the ‘ways of the wicked’ because you would rather seek the alternative solution that already exists.  The solutions to all of this are already living inside of each of us.  It’s a crazy thought for many, but it’s true.

I know all my ‘Leftist-radical’ comrades are probably going crazy right now.  ‘You crazy hippie.  We gotta fight this system,’ they’re probably thinking.  But, my comrades need to understand that our vision/dream for a new world has to be about unconditional love.  We have to imagine a world without all of these ills before we can create it.  I don’t think Christ is coming back, but the Christ energy must.  This is the energy of transformation, hope, and true liberation.

Moving in this consciousness is what some may call grace, or harmony.  It feels good when you are walking with this energy, but it is not always easy, or possible to maintain.  Old habits/thoughts can often creep in, so you must learn to be patient with yourself.  As the Digable Planets said, ‘We’re just babies.  We’re just babies man.’

We are in the ‘FALL’ season (just a few weeks past the Autumnal Equinox) – which means it is time to look ahead again at the coming year.  In a very real sense, it is a ‘New Year,’ so that means it is time to go inside of ourselves.  It is time to be silent, and listen for direction.

What do you hear when you turn off the radio, the T.V., the internet?  What is really driving your steps?  Follow that.  Don’t be afraid if it means walking away from friends, your ‘community,’ or anything else.  Your spirit knows.  You must follow.

My name is Jonathan ‘Jbro’ Mahone, and I am one-half of (RAS) Riders Against the Storm.  I AM TROY DAVIS.

I AM TROY DAVIS: 010 (The Meeting)

For the next 355 days, I will be writing entries under the title, ‘I AM TROY DAVIS.’  Moved to pick up the pen not merely by Troy Anthony Davis‘ death/execution, but more so by his life/evolution, I hope that there are those out there who can relate.  If so, we must connect.  We are already connected.  Axé.

Basically, on Wednesday, October 5th, I just wanted to bring Black and Brown folks together to talk about Occupy Wall Street.  An Occupy Austin was planned for the following day, and I wanted to know what other people were thinking/feeling.  There really aren’t many public spaces to have this type of discussion, so I just created one real quick.

About 16 people showed up.  Half I knew.  Half I didn’t.  Everyone that came to the Orun Center of Cultural Arts that evening was thankful for the opportunity to have an informal group discussion.

Over the next few hours, we expressed frustrations and excitement about what most described as an important ‘moment’ to seize.  There were different ideas about next steps, but mainly we just enjoyed the moment of being together; laughing, eating some of Tiger’s famous Caribbean-inspired Tacos, and sharing thoughts about how to move forward collectively.

Before the end of the gathering, we made plans for a larger meeting on October 10th, and decided to meet again the next day at  Occupy Austin’s first General Assembly in front of City Hall.  I am thankful for all that came, and all that are coming.  Axé!

My name is Jonathan ‘Jbro’ Mahone, and I am one-half of (RAS) Riders Against the Storm.  I AM TROY DAVIS.

I AM TROY DAVIS: 009 (A Call to Rod Starz of Rebel Diaz)

For the next 356 days, I will be writing entries under the title, ‘I AM TROY DAVIS.’  Moved to pick up the pen not merely by Troy Anthony Davis‘ death/execution, but more so by his life/evolution, I hope that there are those out there who can relate.  If so, we must connect.  We are already connected.  Axé.

On Monday night, I was pacing around our house, trying to process this whole Occupy Wall Street movement.  After hours of reading posts, watching videos, and viewing photos online, I felt the need to reach out to some of my peoples in NYC.  I called several folks, but only got in touch with their voicemails.  You know how it is, folks don’t pick up their phones these days.  Fortunately, however, our brother Rod Starz did.

For those that don’t know, Rod Starz is one-half of the revolutionary hip hop duo, Rebel Diaz.  Please get familiar with them.  These folks don’t just rap about change, they get out there and make it happen.  As the founders of the Rebel Diaz Arts Collective, they have transformed an old South Bronx factory space into a radical, hip hop community center.

I met Rod and his brother G-1 for the first time in 2010.  Tiger and I had just moved to Austin, and the Rebel Diaz crew was in town for SXSW (South by Southwest): a huge, annual, international music festival.  Davey D and others were holding a workshop/discussion at the Resistencia Bookstore.  I was blessed with the free time to stop by, and kick it for a minute, so I did.  Since meeting in 2010, we have had a chance to build only one other time in-person, but we remain connected.

Rod didn’t have much time to speak, but he did break down his experience at the NYC Occupy Wall Street event(s) on September 28th.  As expected, he described a large cultural disconnect between the original (predominantly white, privileged) initiators of the protests, and the growing number number of (historically disenfranchised, oppressed) Black and Brown folks coming in to observe/participate.

We also talked about the deep-rooted historical/cultural implications of the language of ‘occupation’ employed by the growing social movement.  Both of us were feeling like the word ‘occupy’ had to go for several reasons, but mainly, because it is repeating the same language used to dominate other (Black and Brown) nations.  Palestine is occupied.  Iraq is occupied.  Shit, the East Side of Austin is occupied.  Colonialism lives on.  The language we use to describe our situation is critical to our liberation from it.

We spoke for a few more minutes about next steps.  Rod explained that they would be back for sure.  After our conversation, I realized that I still hadn’t really spoken with folks in Austin about Occupy Wall Street at all.  Aside from a quick conversation with two friends at a diner on Saturday, the only person living in Austin that I had spoken with was my wife.  This realization led me to make some other phone calls the next night.  And, these phone calls led to a larger group discussion.

My name is Jonathan ‘Jbro’ Mahone, and I am one-half of (RAS) Riders Against the Storm.  I AM TROY DAVIS.

I AM TROY DAVIS: 011 (Jbro Mpeanaji)

For the next 354 days, I will be writing entries under the title, ‘I AM TROY DAVIS.’  Moved to pick up the pen not merely by Troy Anthony Davis‘ death/execution, but more so by his life/evolution, I hope that there are those out there who can relate.  If so, we must connect.  We are already connected.  Axé.

So, I noticed the other day that most of my favorite rappers/mcs have either last names, or two names:  Tupac Shakur, Mos Def, André 3000, Tiger Lily, Talib Kweli, Lupé Fiasco, Wise Intelligent, the list goes on.  This was a very interesting fact that led me to a revelation: I need a last/second name.  Jbro Mahone doesn’t quite roll off the tongue, does it?

I sat for a while, and listened for what this last name would be.  Initially, nothing came to me.  On our way to someone’s house, I asked my wife what she thought this last name should be, and she couldn’t come up with anything.  Then, in a flash, part of the answer came.

My friend Tanuj Chopra used to call me ‘the giver’ when we were in school together at Brown University.  He gave me this title because of my naturally giving nature, but also because whenever there was a freestyle cipher going down, I was the chosen one to lay down the beat-box that kept things rolling.  Some ciphers literally lasted for hours.   At this point in my life, hip hop was definitely the gospel that I grooved to daily; rappers were the preachers; and the cipher was our church.

Inspired by these golden memories, I decided to take ‘the giver’ title as my last name.  I wanted this new name to have African origins, so I chose the Swahili language.  After reaching out to our friend Anzetse for a translation, the name Mpeanaji (pronounced Mmm-peh-ah-nah-jee) emerged (10/6/2011).

Good morning world.  Please say hello to Jbro Mpeanaji.  Together, with my wife, Tiger Lily, I will re-shape this world through the power of music/art.

My name is Jonathan ‘Jbro Mpeanaji’ Mahone, and I am one-half of (RAS) Riders Against the Storm.  I AM TROY DAVIS.