Wednesday, May 30, 2007

DJ Jazzy Jeff and Will Smith Contemplating New Album

May 29th, 2007

The legendary duo, DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince, haven’t recorded an album together since 1993’s Code Red. Since then, Will Smith has gone on to become one of the biggest movie stars in the world, while Jazzy Jeff focused on his own albums, The Magnificent (2002) and The Return of the Magnificent (2007). Now, the duo is possibly considering a reunion album and tour. “We’ve been talking about making a record [and] going on tour,” Jazzy Jeff tells “It’s just about making a schedule. Will is pretty much one of the biggest movie stars in the world. It’s really difficult because it’s hard for him to just say, I’m going to take off two years and focus on just going on the road or just going into the studio to make a record. [But] every time I talk to Will, he really wants to do it. We talked about possibly going on the road sometime this year and doing some stuff. His heart is there, he wants to do it.” Also, in a recent interview with The Sun, Jazzy Jeff tells the publication that indeed, the duo is getting back together and an album might be ready by November. “We talk about it all the time but recently he came up to me and said he was very serious about it and wants to do something very soon,” Jeff told The Sun. “We’re aiming for November.”
Reporting by Rich Knight

Monday, May 28, 2007

Could it be? Could another Street Fighter be in the works?

As far as rumors go, a genuine Street Fighter sequel (and not just a rehash or a “Turbo, Hyper, Awesome, Special Edition” slapped at the top of it) is a pretty big thing. And if the rumor mongers that be are correct, we might be seeing a sequel to the series that Ryu built not too far off into the future.

According to, when asked about the possibilities of an upcoming Street Fighter sequel, an Udon Comics spokesperson at a San Diego Comics Convention said that something was in the works. And then, to add Gummy Bears to the ice cream, a Capcom representative apparently said that the company had not forgotten its fans and that something is definitely in the works.

If this is in fact true, I have nothing but high hopes that a sequel could once again sweep the arcades and bring people back to quarter munching bliss at their local malls. I personally really dug Street Fighter 3 and found the new character Alex to be a devastating powerhouse when used correctly.

But as good as a sequel to Street Fighter would be, where the heck is my follow-up to Marvel vs. Capcom 2? I mean, I know the soundtrack was absolutely hideous, but the gameplay was out of this world, and I can’t wait to get back behind the joystick to unleash 100+ hit combos on my fellow man. I want to see Punisher vs Moon Knight, dammit, and I want to see it NOW! (Editor's Note: Agreed)

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Pump’s Gentleman’s Club Steps into Hot Water with Prostitution Sting

A stripper looks to be baring more than just her skin at the Pump’s Gentleman’s club on route 15.

On March 1st, after an approximate two month investigation, the Jefferson Township Police Department assisted the NJ Division of Criminal Justice Alcohol Beverage Commission (ABC) in an undercover prostitution sting.

Dancer Rozilda Flusa Braganca, 39, of Newark, offered up her services to an undercover officer for a fee and was arrested, processed, and released pending a March Court Appearance. The manager of the club, who refused to give his name, said amidst loud music in the background: “This is a first.”

Though, police from the Jefferson Police Department admit that this ISN’T the first time they’ve been eyeing the place, as there have been murmurs of this nature regarding the club, as well as other establishments in the area, for quite some time.

“There have been complaints in the past about solicitation of prostitution,” said Police Spokesperson, Lt. Eric Wilsusen, “And somebody made a complaint just recently, so we forwarded it to the ABC.”

On the day of the arrest, the club was shut down at 2 p.m. for a thorough investigation by the Jefferson police and the ABC, and re-opened at 4:30 p.m. for business after they had concluded their search. “We made our arrest, closed it down, and were back out,” said Lt. Wilsusen.

Being a 4th degree crime, the stripper herself will have to go through the winding court system on the county level, and much is determined on whether she’ll plead guilty or not guilty.

But whether the club itself is in trouble is still up in the air, as the ABC has to do their own investigation to see if this could affect their license.

Lt. Wilsusen speaking on behalf of the ABC: “That’s what they do, that’s their job.”

Friday, May 25, 2007

DJ Jazzy Jeff interview

Though it will never see the light of day on where it was supposed to show up (there were conflicting problems about how Jazzy Jeff was going to be featured in the magazine in about a month, and the website doesn't put people on the website and in the magazine at the same time), here's the Jazzy Jeff interview I conducted in full. Hope you enjoy.

In a day and time when a rapper’s production can make or break a career, the man behind the mixing boards has now become the quintessential component to creating classic records. In turn, this has often left the party-starting DJ of yesteryear sadly out of the mix, as computers have quickly taken over. But, as with all things, there are exceptions, and DJ Jazzy Jeff has always been one of them. Originally spinning records in his mom’s basement just for the fun of it, the Philadelphia native made a name for himself in the 80s pairing up with Will Smith and forming the instantly recognizable duo, DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. A comical and fun group that used their quirkiness to climb the charts, benchmark records like the multi-platinum selling, He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper, scored big time with hits like the MTV friendly, Parents Just Don’t Understand. It also garnered them a Grammy, making them rap’s first group to do so. Jeff is also recognizable as the sunglasses wearing slacker always getting tossed out the mansion on the popular 90s sitcom, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, a feat that even he admits took a toll on his body. But the duo’s music began to trickle to a standstill when Will became a movie star, which left Jazzy Jeff to his own creative inventions, leading him to create the critically lauded The Magnificent in 2002, and his most recent release, The Return of the Magnificent just this year. talks with Jazzy Jeff about his new album, his life with Will, and getting tossed out by Uncle Phil.

By: Rich Knight You got a lot of big names on this album like Method Man and Big Daddy Kane. How did you go about reaching out to those people?

Jazzy Jeff: You know what, I just wrote a list of everybody I wanted to work with, you know. It was a long list, and I said, you know what, pick up the phone and call them. The only thing that they could tell you was no. Fortunately, no one told me no. So I was extremely ecstatic about that. And so do you have any memorable moments in the studio with your guests?

Jazzy Jeff: Well, you know, it’s not what I would say were memorable moments. You know what it was, it was just really cool just going in the studio, because everybody’s collaboration started out with conversation, you know. We sat, we talked, and I’m somebody who’s not about just going in the studio and just starting something. It was kind of like, we sat down and we talked about things. We talked about the current state of music, [and] what we would like to see. We talked about reminiscing back in the day, and it was so, you know, down to political issues, and that pretty much was how you opened the door and got to the point where you were comfortable. You know, even down to making them something to eat. Anything but talk about music. You talk about making something to eat. I know you love cooking. I guess my question is, what did you make them to eat?

Jazzy Jeff: I love to cook. So you know, that came from whatever somebody needed. If you didn’t eat meat, it was like, okay, let me make you some fish, or some salmon, you know. If you ate meat, let me make you a steak. A lot of it was just being comfortable. Your last album was a bit more underground than this one. Was there any reason you purposely made it more…approachable?

Jazzy Jeff: You know what? I think more than anything it would have to be the people that I used that kinda made it like that. It wasn’t really a conscious effort. I was kind of trying to be on the exact same thing I was on The Magnificent. I wanted to show a little growth. I wanted to show a little bit more of maturity than on the last album, but I didn’t want to change the overall feel that much. You know, I wanted people to kind of say, “Hey, well, that’s kinda cool, I like how he did that,” but I wasn’t trying to make the Black album. I read on your website that you wanted to make this album like it was your last. Have you ever thought of making a new album like it was your first?

Jazzy Jeff: Well, you know what’s funny? I’m kinda thinking that that’s very similar. I said that I try to approach every album as if it’s my last because I use that as motivation. But you know what’s funny? This album, the whole theme of this album was that I want to go back into my mom’s basement. I want this to be 2007, my mom’s basement. To the point that this album didn’t start with the first record, this album pretty much started because I had closed down the studio I had had for 15 years, and I had moved from the location that I was working at for 18 years, and I pretty much moved into a new house, and built this studio to be 2007 my mom’s basement. So, it’s kinda funny you said that because this album is absolutely done to be like my first. Like, when I didn’t have any concern of selling records. When I didn’t have any concern of notoriety or who was going to like it. When I was in my mom’s basement, I just wanted to make music, you know, because I love it. And that’s pretty much the main focus for this album. Like, let me go back to my mom’s basements before I had bills, and stress, and stuff like that. Hip-hop nowadays seems almost like a young man’s game. How does it feel to be a veteran in this whole thing?

Jazzy Jeff: Well, you know what; I think hip-hop only seems like a young man’s game because, well, we’re the only generation to grow old with it. You know, no one thinks that R&B is a young man’s game because we’ve gone through multiple generation’s of R&B. This is the first generation of hip-hop that’s in their 40s and in their 50s, and everybody’s still trying to figure out what we’re supposed to do [with it]. Are we supposed to like it? Are we supposed to say, damn, I’m too old for it? And I really believe that what we’re doing is trying to find our way. Because I don’t believe that hip-hop is a young person’s market place. I think that we just have to accept that it calls for you to be 40 something years old in the hip-hop age. Yeah, I hear you.

Jazzy Jeff: I think what happens a lot that makes us not accept it is the commercial side of hip-hop. Like, I was just telling somebody that my mom and older brother and sister grew up with the Temptations. They LOVE the Temptations and they’re [the Temptations] still making records—for them! With hip-hop, it’s a little bit different because everybody’s like…Well, I was watching an award show [one day], and when I was watching it, The Fugees came on. I jumped up, and was like, “Oh, my God! This is it, this is it!” But when I came down, my son was looking at me like I was a fool. And it hit me, I love The Fugees, I love A Tribe Called Quest. I love De La Soul, but where are you going to hear that? Like, why would the Fugeees come out with a record when they have no place where people can hear it? And I don’t mean to jump off track, but it brings the point that now we have all these adult contemporary stations in the country that play Steveie Wonder. They even play New Edition, but when this was going on, “Around the Way Girl” was on the charts at the same time, so why don’t they play that? It’s a different standard with hip-hop. People are in their 40s and 50s, so how are you going to play half of what I grew up with? And I’m like; you have classic rock stations that play classic rock. In fact, classic rock is the reason groups like the Police are back together on tour. So why don’t they have a hip-hop station? Where are they? Are you trying to tell me if you put Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, Kid n Play, De La Soul, Big Daddy Kane, Salt & Pepper, you tell me people won’t go see that? That’s a good question. You know what. I think it’s because…because…you know what, I don’t know why they don’t do that.

Jazzy Jeff: You know what I think? I think it’s because, it’s like I said [before]. This is a new thing [and] we don’t know what to do with it. This is the first generation that’s going into hip-hop, and we’re still trying to figure out, do I like this? Do I want to keep this? Should I accept this? Or should I just let it go? If hip-hop was Jambalaya, what elements of it currently would you discard, and what elements would you keep?

Jazzy Jeff: You know what’s funny? I don’t think, in just trying not to be hypocritical, I don’t think that I would discard anything. What I’m mad about, is what’s NOT in there. My biggest issue is that I grew up in an era of hip-hop where if you wanted your pro-black, you had your Public Enemy, you had your X-Clan, you had Brand Nubian. If you wanted party and fun, you had Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, you had Salt and Pepper and Kid n Play. If you wanted your gangster shit, you had your NWA. If you wanted your native tongue, you had your Jungle Brothers, your De La Soul, and your Tribe Called Quest. You pretty much could pick whatever you wanted. Right now, we have one thing. If you ain’t a pimp, if you ain’t a ho, if you ain’t ballin’ in the clubs, that’s all we’ve got. Where is hip-hop’s diversity? My issue is, I ain’t mad that we have our walking it out or anything like that, but where’s everything else? My thing is, I wouldn’t take anything out, but I’d add a WHOLE lot more stuff in. How is Will doing?

Jazzy Jeff: He’s good. Do you guys think you might make a record again?

Jazzy Jeff: We’ve been talking about making a record; we’ve been talking about going on tour. It’s just about making a schedule. Like, Will is pretty much one of the biggest movie stars in the world. It’s really different because, you know, it’s hard for him to just say I’m going to take off two years, and focus on just going on the road, or just going into the studio and making a record. Every time I talk to Will, he really wants to do it. We are just trying to make the right time to do it. We talked about possibly going on the road sometime this year and doing some stuff. So you know what, one thing is going to have to lead to another. But you know, his heart is there, he wants to do it. You know, it’s kinda like [if] the President of the United States was a big hop-hop fan, then it’s time to go on tour. Back when you guys were making records together, did it ever bother you that he was the face of the group?

Jazzy Jeff: Naaaaw. Noooo. I mean, I am not into that at all. I think that the success of Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince came from that we were an incredible balance, because sometimes, Will had a tendency to go too far, and sometimes, I had a tendency to be too laid back. And I think, as much as I pulled him back, that was the same amount that he was pulling me out. And I think that chemistry was a great balance of the group. You know, because I’ve never been the guy who’s like, “Oh, man, I want everybody to know who I am,” Because I’m somebody who’s like…I still like going to the mall. I mean, there’s a lot of times that I felt really sorry because Will is in one of those positions where he can’t do annnnything. I think a lot of people need to understand that when they say, “Oh my God, I wish I was rich, I wish I was famous, and I wish everybody knew me.” Will can’t take his son to an amusement park. There’s a lot of little stuff; that, you know, where I’m like, damn, I don’t know what I would do if that was taken away from me. You guys were huge. What was going through your mind when you picked up your first Grammy?

Jazzy Jeff: Well, you know, I tell people, the Grammy’s are a little bit different because we boycotted the first Grammy because, you know, it was kind of bittersweet. This is the biggest acknowledgement you can get it in music, but wow, you’re not even good enough for them to televise it on TV. They’ll televise, like, six classical categories, and a country western category, but they won’t show one [hip-hop category], and in that point in time, hip-hop was probably the number three music in the world. That was like a slap in the face. And now it’s totally different.

Jazzy Jeff: Now, it’s dominating. But, you know, it’s bittersweet. [They were acting like] We’re not important enough to show [on TV]. You know, you were kind of like, damn. You’re calling your friends, and you’re like, man, I won, and they’re asking, “Where can I see it on TV?” And then you say, naw, they boycotted it, and then they’re like, “Aw, man, you didn’t win.” So, don’t ruin my joy. Is there anything new coming out the pipeline for A Touch of Jazz records?

Jazzy Jeff: I kind of just play it by ear. You know, with me traveling, and what I’m doing right now supporting this record, I’m very excited to kind of go back into the studio and work on some new stuff. So, hopefully [I’ll be doing that] by the end of the year. You know, because the biggest dilemma I’m having right now is that I’ve been away, and being on the road for close to 200 dates out of the year, and touring, and being in the studio. I mean, they haven’t come out with the cloning machine yet, so you’re just trying to come out with a way to do both, because I think I love both equally. So that really creates a dilemma. You’re very experimental, is there a genre of music that you haven’t ventured into yet but would like to?

Jazzy Jeff: Aw, man, I think I would like to, you know…I like to explore anything, I love to cross genres. I love House music, you know, just because, I just feel that House music is where our original R&B and Soul has gone. The only difference is that the floor to floor beat, but if you go to especially soulful House music, that’s where the lyrics are. That’s where the chord changes are, that’s where the melody changes are, and I love rock. I love the enthusiasm of rock, you know. I’m a huge jazz fanatic, the spontaneity of jazz. It seems in jazz you can do anything you want as long as the music is there. But you know, I’m that hip-hop head. I love the beat. You know, so I’m like, let’s throw some jazz in a banging ass beat. Let’s throw some cuts in a rock record, you know. It’s amazing that every rock group now has a DJ, which is cool. You basically started the transforming and chirping technique. Are there any other techniques that you started but haven’t gotten credited for?

Jazzy Jeff: Well, you know what’s funny? I don’t even look at the whole “created” thing like I created the transformer scratch. Because you know, I mean, what I think is that I’m the person who widely publicized it; I’m the person who put it on the record. But you know, DJing to me is a lot like basketball. Somebody at some point and time thought, it might be great to dribble the ball between my legs, and from that came the cross over. And from that came the such and such. It’s kind of like the same thing. Like Grand Master Theodore came up with the scratch, so, somebody else added this to it, and somebody added to that and elevated it. So, I’ve never been the credit hound, of like, I invented this, I invented that. When people today…it just blows my mind that people think I had any kind of impact on the DJ culture. For DJ’s to come up to me today and say, “Wow, I basically do what I do today because of you,” that throws me for a loop. You know, because I basically do it and I’ve done it because I love it. It’s not like I did it because I wanted to be the best. I went and got a job and put turntables on layaway, which is something kids today know nothing about. I mean, I’d DJ your party for free. So it had nothing to do with me trying to be famous, or me trying to make money. Like I said, this to me was basketball. It was something I’d just do for fun. What’s the most memorable moment in your career?

Jazzy Jeff: Um…wow…You know what; I would have to say, Live 8. Because, to be able to do a show, [which is] pretty much the biggest show in the world in your home town? That was incredible to me. To go out and do ‘Summertime,’ and to even go and do the theme to the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, and to hear a million people in front of you. Man, I can’t even BEGIN to tell you what that felt like. Like, I had a camera on stage, and I had captured it, and I got so excited that I knocked the video camera in the air and I got a whole video of the sky. I was so excited that I couldn’t take it down. I was like, wow, this is amazing. Okay, last question. When you were thrown out of the mansion on the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, was that really you or…

Jazzy Jeff: Absolutely, over and over and over. You know, and it started out as [something where the producers were like] we’re going to do it, and we did it, and people liked it. And it became a trademark, but, that was…Well, one shot might have been 30 takes. People don’t realize it, but it was a lot of hot baths. Even though you landed on the mat, I am not built to do that. I am not the stunt man. That definitely took its toll.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

New games for the Wii Console Still Sorely Lacking Rainbow Islands

As of May 21st, three more games were added to Wii’s virtual console—Streets of Rage 2 (800 points), Blazing Lazers (600 points), and Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy Kong’s Quest (800 points).

For the uninitiated, Streets of Rage 2, the best of the batch, was the progressive step Sega took to outdo Super Nintendo’s Final Fight, which it did with flying colors. With an excellent soundtrack by Yuzo Koshiro, beautiful (at the time) graphics, and a beefed-up combat system, the bare-knuckle brawlers came out swinging and hit every target right on the money.

Next on this list is Blazing Lazers, a Turbo Grafx-16 outing. With its hardcore gameplay and intense waves of attackers, this is the kind of shooter your daddy used to play. Probably most noticeable for its weapon upgrades feature, next to Gun Nac for the NES, this is my favorite shooter of all time (I never did much like that 1943 game).
And finally, SNES’ Diddy Kong’s Quest is yet another ho hum “adventure” in the DK franchise that peaked with the first game and petered out at Diddy Kong Racing for the N64. Now that the once state-of-the-art graphics have been outdone many times over, there’s nothing much to see here other than boring platforming segments and spotty gameplay. Buy only if you have Wii points to spare.

But while most of the games already released on the Wii console are certified classics, I’m still very disheartened to find that many of my old time favorites don’t look like they’ll ever be making a dramatic entrance anytime soon on the Virtual Console. Most notably, I’m talking about Rainbow Islands, the oft-forgotten sequel to Bubble Bobble.

In this bizarre platformer, you build little rainbow bridges and work your way to the top of the screen in an effort to…I really don’t even know. But the infectious music and excellent gameplay pinch you in just the right places. It’s really a shame that we’ll probably NEVER see this gem turn up on the Nintendo console. Not unless, of course, enough people demand it, which is just about as likely as people demanding Milon’s Secret Castle, which just ain’t gonna happen.
Other games I’d like to see turn up that don’t have a chance in hades: T&C Games 2: Thrilla’s Safari, Splatterhouse 3, and Contra: Hard Corps. Good news, though: According to wikipedia, Zombies Ate My Neighbors is actually scheduled for a release. I guess I’m not the only one who totally loved that game.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

ZOMG! NiGHTS is Coming To the Wii!

Fans of the cult classic Saturn game, NiGHTS: Into Dreams, can stop tossing and turning in their beds now that it’s been announced that a sequel to the somnolent sleeper will be coming soon to the Wii. And while I know this isn’t as ZOMG worthy as, say, a sequel to ZAMN (Zombies Ate My Neighbors), it’s still a great surprise for those who actually purchased a Saturn way back when, only to find out that it only had three other great games in its roster—Phantasy Star, Panzer Dragoon Saga, and Baku Baku Animal (Not to be confused with Waku Waku 7, just look it up!).

Little is known about this new NiGHTS, which is set to be titled, Journey of Dreams, other than that it’s an entirely new adventure that isn’t going to be just a rehash of the original. What that also means is that speculation is fair game as to what could possibly be featured in this Wii exclusive. But the fact that Nintendo’s special Wii-mote controller will be involved can only make the seasoned NiGHTS fan just imagine what could possibly come out of this new adventure. Perhaps, it’ll all be like one very lucid dream (Too bad it’s coming out for the Wii instead of the X-box, then. That would have gone perfectly with Peter Moore’s whole 360 schpeel.)

If you haven’t seen it yet, though, word on the streets -- or, at least word at my local GameStop -- is that this game isn’t looking all that hot. But even back when the original came out in ‘96, NiGHTS was never much of a looker when put side-by-side with most of the PSX games that were coming out at the time. So hopefully, gameplay will once again win over people when it finally comes out.

Here’s hoping.

Next game I want to see updated: Streets of Rage. Make it happen, Sega!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Facing their fears, one step at a time

The Daily Record

October 25, 2006

The time was 7:48 a.m., and it was cold.

Justine Trinidad, wearing glasses and a black coat, parked her car at the edge of the road, stepped out, and shivered. She was cold, yes, but she was also thinking about how, for the first time in her life, she was about to scale a cliff.

“I’m here to challenge myself and get past some fears,” she said.
Trinidad was in Allamuchy State Park at the Riverview Adventure Clinic, a group started to help women find out truths about themselves through self-discovery and teamwork. The founder of the group, Mary-Michel Levitt, who has been in charge of the Riverview Marriage and Family Council for 21 years, organized this event and was set to act as their support for the day.

Fellow adventurer Jessie Martinet said she was “expecting to have a good time and hopefully find some self-discovery.”

“I want to learn something new, and you learn to trust people (when you climb mountains),” said Susan Slaton, who clumber her first mountain when she was still in high school.

When Mary-Michael arrived, she told the women to start up the hill that led to the mountain; she was going to wait at the bottom for other women to show up.

Martinet led the group up a steep hill, bypassing some sharp orange rocks and yellow leaves. After moving the last dangling branch from her path, Martinet and the others saw “the practice wall,” a 40-foot climb straight up, what the Rock Climbing New Jersey guidebook calls “Salty Tears.”

Some of the women looked up at it remotely, others nervously. Above, a man with yellow sleeves was throwing ropes down from the top to his son, Stephen Rusnock. This was Barry Rusnock, the trainer for the day and also Mary’s husband. Stephen Rusnock was already setting up some of the harnesses they would be attached to for the climb.

Through the rest of the day, he would be “invaluable,” said Mary-Michael, who believes everything went as smoothly as it did because of him.

The women sat down on cold rocks. The time was now 8:45, and four more women showed up. Mary-Michael walked over to them with sheets of paper that crinkled in the wind.

“The scariest part of this climb is signing your liability forms,” Mary-Michael joked, and added for those who weren’t laughing, “We promise no death and mayhem, just fun.” And with that, the women signed, some continuously looking up at the mountain as they scribbled.

Normally with rock climbing, it might take two whole classes before an individual would actually scale their first cliff, but with Barry around, an Eagle Scout who was awarded the vigil award, the highest honor one can receive in the order of the arrow, and also a climber since he was 15, everything was secure and ready for them to scale right away.

Mary-Michael also knew what she was doing, having climbed a multitude of mountains herself, even scaling the brutal Mount Washington in New Hampshire, which has some of the worst weather conditions in the world.

The aim for the day was to get all the women on the cliff at least once, and that they did.

“As a good husband, I decided to do it,” said Barry. While the women waited, he leapt backward down the face of the cliff while holding onto the rope with only one hand. Mountaineers call this technique rappelling.

After teaching the techniques of belaying (one person staying at the bottom slackening and tightening the rope while the other climbs the mountain), the women began their ascent.

Martinet scaled almost the whole thing but got stuck at a tree; she went backwards down the mountain with her life in the hands of her partner. At the nadir, her eyes ecstatic, she said, “It was exciting, scary, but a lot of fun, very liberating.”

She blamed her inability to make it to the apex on the fact that she couldn’t see where to put her hands.”

“I’m disappointed I didn’t get to the top,” she said, turning her head to Slaton, who was struggling herself, spread out like Spider-Man on a slab.

Trinidad stood at the bottom and pulled on the rope, now confident that there was nothing to be worried about. The time was 12:30 p.m., and the women had already conquered their fears and learned how to trust their partners. Only a few hours had passed and the mission was already a success.

And this program is just the start of many to come, including fly fishing, kayaking, and canoeing. Classes for men and children are also being planned.

“Trust and self-esteem are so important,” said Mary-Michael, while hooting and hollering for Slaton, who managed to cling to a very difficult spot. “I mean, it’s one thing to talk about it until you’re blue in the face, but when you experience it, it sticks.”

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Gangsta Party

Februrary 6, 2007
A documentary about Los Angeles gang life, directed by one of it’s own? Cle “Bone” Sloan decided it had to be done, and HBO agrees.

Cle “Bone” Sloan is like many in Hollywood, a familiar face with an unfamiliar name. Those familiar with director Antoine Fuqua films like The Replacement Killers and Tears of the Sun have seen Sloan’s mean mug in the background, or they might also recognize him from his biggest role to date - a small time, reticent gangster, Bone in the movie, Training Day (He was the one who pointed the gun at Denzel at the end.) Now, the actor and loyal member of the Bloods, has stepped from in front of the camera to behind it. Tonight, February 6, HBO will premier Bastards of the Party. The movie tackles the subject of gangs in Los Angeles, demonstrating their natural progression after the Black Panthers movement dissolved. Sloan sat down with to explain his film, pointing a gun at Denzel, and why Boyz N the Hood is the only gangsta film that almost got it right. So how long have you been a non-active member of the Bloods?
Bone: I’d say it started about ‘99, ‘98 when I really started trying to walk it like I talk it.
So why did decide to you leave? Wasn’t your thing?

I didn’t leave, I just found something else to do with my time, thank God. Nevertheless, I just stopped participating in the killings and the criminal activities. It’s a social thing, and I kept my credibility. You know, these guys are my friends, and to call myself an ex and just walk away, it’d be a waste…the only reason we’re actually talking right now is because I’ve stayed in and stayed so close [to the Bloods]. I was able to make this film because I stayed so close to them. And what compelled you to make this documentary?

You know, man, there’s just so much misinformation about things like L.A. black gangs. People are so incompetently wrong about them. And once I started learning the things I’ve learned, I wanted to make the knowledge accessible and easy for people to get. Learning that the Crips came from the Black Panthers was just jarring to me.It’s interesting that you just mentioned the Crips, because if my memory serves me correctly, Bloods and Crips don’t usually get along al that well. How did you get Crips to appear in your documentary?Yeah, I filmed in South Park, which is notorious as a Crip stronghold. I went there and told them that I wanted to make a film, and they said, ‘Yeah, I respect what you’re trying to do.’ And they didn’t have any problems with that?

Well, we negotiated a couple weeks before I went in, so they knew I was coming. But it took a lot of dialogue. I talked to some of the elders, and a lot of their nephews were members of the Crips over in South Park. So we had about a week of negotiations and we just worked it out. My homies were totally against it. They thought I was crazy for going over there, but I knew I had to get the Crips’ perspective, too. So how did you come in contact with Antoine Fuqua? Were you guy’s boys before?

Naw, he put me in a Miller Draft commercial. And when I say I literally stepped out of jail and on the set, I LITERALLY stepped out of jail and on the set. He put me in this commercial, and I ate off it for a whole year. It was a national spot. Antoine called me back later in 2001, and that’s when we did Training Day. How did you get Antoine involved with this project?

Well, I opened up my whole neighborhood to him for Training Day, and afterwards, we just kept in contact. I actually showed him 15 minutes of Bastards in the beginning, and he was like, “You have to finish this film,” and I was like, ‘Well, you gotta help me [then], I can’t do this by myself.’ So that’s when he started writing the checks, and that’s when I started getting the editors involved. Your name in Training Day was actually Bone. Is that your gang name, or was that just your name in the movie?

Yeah, that’s a funny thing, because in the script, my name was Red. But as we were shooting it, Denzel rehearsed it one day, and he just called me Bone and I rolled with it. I guess he was so in character that he just felt it better calling me Bone. At the end of Training Day, you actually point a gun at Denzel’s head. What was that like?

That was pretty trippy. That whole situation was just a great experience. I put 156 Bloods in that movie and 28 Crips. So that whole situation was just a powerful moment in my life. But putting a gun to Denzel’s head, yeah, that was trippy. In the 1990s, there was a surge of movies on gang life, like Boyz N the Hood and Juice. Do you think any of those movies got it right?

Well, for me, I’m too close; you know what I’m saying? For me, they’ll never get it right. It’s like asking a Vietnam vet about Platoon – some of them loved it, some of them hated it. So that’s why it’s hard for me to watch those films. I think Boyz N the Hood got a lot of things right, though. The most powerful scene in the movie to me is at the end. It’s like, “Either people don’t know what’s going on in the ‘hood, or they just don’t care.” And after seeing that film, it made me think, is the rest of the country going through this, or is it just us? You actually started out pretty young in your thug life. What made you want to become a Blood at 12?

Well, you know. I did everything in Athens Park (a local hang out spot for the Bloods). I used to hang out there from morning to night, and that was the great thing about the park. The park had a dark side, too, though. It had these gangs. And I knew the guys there but didn’t know they were gang members, you feel me? So I naturally sort of gravitated towards these guys. So I really wouldn’t say I made the choice, I just decided to defend the people I cared about. Have you ever thought of writing a book about your experiences?

I'm actually writing a book right now. It’s the companion piece to Bastards. After going to jail and studying up on the subject of gangs, and talking, and talking, and talking about it, my homies were like, “We’re sick of hearing you talk about it, why don’t you just write a book?” And my ongoing joke with them was, ‘Yeah, but if I write a book, you ain’t going to read it.’ So I made the film for them so they could watch it. When people see this, what message do you want to come across?

That the situation is much bigger and more complex than you’ll ever understand. This documentary is criticizing [the media] and[the gang members]. It’s a new reference point, man, and I hope it’s seen that way.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Big Day at St. Elizabeth's

FLORHAM PARK — Aneta Brzoza said life was tough when she came to America from Poland seven years ago. She lost her job, and an apartment, at one point the only thing that kept her from going home was lack of money for a plane ticket.S

he received a masters degree Saturday during the College of St. Elizabeth’s 105th commencement honoring 443 students, the school’s largest class ever, and told her story as one of two student speakers — her speech marked at some points by standing ovations and people wiping back tears.“So many of us have felt hopeless at some point in life,” Brzoza, who lives in Dover, said.

“But somehow, we managed to stay focused and be strong enough to make it.”

New Jersey Secretary of State Nina Mitchell Wells, of Livingston, was the commencement’s main speaker and received an honorary degree.

She told the graduates that they are living in exciting times. She asked them to “challenge the status quo” and to “make it better.”“We have a woman and an African American running for President of the United States,” she said. “ I hope that because of them, you feel empowered to accomplish anything and everything in today’s world.”

The ceremony began with the playing of bagpipes before graduating students entered a giant white tent where more than a dozen national flags represented some of their origins. They were young and old, and one woman was pregnant, saying she was scheduled to give birth the day after her graduation.

The 443 men and women graduates included 285 undergraduate students and 158 graduate students.

Carmela Resuma, who received a bachelor’s in mathematics and was chosen as the undergraduate Women’s College speaker, told her fellow graduates that they were her inspiration. She told them that as women and leaders, they have a responsibility “to continue to serve others and work towards establishing tangible and sustainable changes in all areas of our society.”

Bonnie J. Monte of Madison, artistic director of the Shakespeare Theater of New Jersey, and J. Martin Comey of Glen Ridge, a CPA and one-time trustee of the college, both received honorary degrees.Brzoza, who gave the adult student address, maintained a perfect 4.0 grade point average on her way to a Masters of Science degree with a concentration in organizational change management.

She said she came from Poland, where she lived in a coal mining town, in 1999 to follow her dream of acquiring an education in the U.S. “Of course, I was sad to leave my family back in Poland but at the same time, I was excited to be able to go to a country that I heard so much about from movies and stories and I knew the U.S. to be the land of opportunity,” she said.

She found that life wasn’t at all like it was in the movies. She said she lost a job as an au pair and lost her apartment. At one point, she said a man saw her crying on the street, and asked what was wrong. Angels came into her life, she said, helping her to put a roof over her head and allowing her to continue her education at the time at the County College of Morris.

She graduated from CCM in 2002.“I was actually taken in by 20 Mexicans living in a house together,” she said. “At first I thought, oh my God, I’m the only girl here, something’s going to happen to me. But they actually gave me a room and a bed, while they slept on the floor.”

She said that at one point she had three jobs, including working as a waitress in a diner where one of her customers started to cry.“I thought I brought the wrong food or maybe spilled something,” she said.

She was told she looked like the woman’s daughter, who had died.The woman and her husband later introduced Brzoza to a woman who worked at the College of St. Elizabeth’s. That woman helped Brzoza receive funding for college tuition at the school.“The only thing she asked for in return was a promise that one day I would aspire to do the same thing for someone else,” Brzoza said.

She has made good on that promise by helping others, developing a program in the Parsippany and Hanover school districts called American Martial Arts Kick Smart that teaches preschool children to have positive attitudes, to use self-control and be courteous.She told her fellow graduates that she is going to Poland to get married but will return to the U.S. where she intends to pursue a career in finance and accounting.

She told them that her father had flown from Poland to attend her graduation."Dad, I love you and thank you for believing in me, she said, and then addressed her father in Polish as some people in the audience cried.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Pennsylvania professor goes the distance for disabled

Doctor Diane Cavanagh doesn’t mind the once a week drive down to Lake Hopatcong’s Gruenert Center, which is a branch off of the ever bearing tree that is the Department for Person’s with Disabilities, or, DPD for short, in Paterson. In fact, she actually likes it: “Once you get to the Gruenert Center and meet the people there,” she says, pausing to recollect her experience for the past three years, “It’s just a wonderful group.”

And it’s a group that has only benefited enormously from her continued support. So much so, that the center actually awarded her as Person of the Year for 2007, and held a party in her honor this past February at the Brownstone in Paterson. It’s an honor that she says is the greatest award of all.

The Gruenert Center, nudged in along the edge of route 15 near Pathmark and Jefferson Diner, and right above Frank’s Pizza, works to orientate the mentally disabled and place them in society so they can live happy and healthier lives. And what better person to aid in the process than the good doctor, who has been teaching special education at East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania for the past 16 years.

“[Helping the disabled] has been a passion of mine since I was 7 or 8 years old,” says Dr. Cavanagh.

One of the ways she’s made a difference is by getting the attendees, who she refers to as “clients,” up and out of their seats. “I gave them ceramics and physical fitness to do. They’re adults, and this keeps them active.”

It also makes them a more appealing group to the workforce looking to hire employees for relatively simple, but important, jobs, like packaging and labeling. And Dr. Cavanagh fully understands the unbridled potential of the mentally disabled, helping to garner jobs for many of the clients who come to the center: “I put together some job training kits to develop their fine motor skills and build their attention span,” she says, and in this way, she has already made them a more efficient group to the public.

This is mainly because she is changing the idea of what an intellectually developmentally disabled person can do, which is something that Kathy DeYoung, who has been with the DPD for the past 22 years, has seen for herself first hand: “[Dr. Cavanagh’s] philosophy is to have a person centered environment where each of our people are stimulated and challenged to work to the best of their individual talents.”

Since many members of the mentally handicapped community still live with their parents or in group homes, a great deal of the time, special education only reaches so high for them, fostering the idea that the mentally disabled can only handle so much. But the DPD feels otherwise.
As Rick DeYoung, the Developmental Assistant for Public Relations and Kathy’s husband puts it: “The vision for the DPD is for it to be recognized by all as a ministry for people with disabilities where they are fully accepted with love and encouraged toreach their full potential.”

It’s a place that offers them the opportunity to feel like a part of society just like everybody else, and Dr. Cavanagh strives to make that mission a reality: “I see it really as a calling.”
And Kathy DeYoung agrees: “Overall, our people appear to be happier than ever before.”

To find out more about the center or to visit the site, contact either Rick or Kathy, at Or just stop on by. As Rick puts it, sometimes, it can get a little crazy, but you couldn’t meet a nicer batch of people. Not even if you tried.
Picture found at:

Friday, May 11, 2007

Defeat of budget leaves Jefferson School’s in a sore spot

With almost every blue seat occupied, the April 30th school board meeting last night at the Jefferson Middle School library was a bit more packed than last they met to discuss the budget. But the reveal the school board had to give wasn’t as auspicious as they had hoped it would be, as the budget, for the second year in a row, didn’t pass.

“It’s just a disappointment that our budget was rejected,” said Louis Cerny from behind the table he had been sitting at with the other board members, “It’s important that we get the funding that we need.”

With 859 votes yes, and 974 votes no, this is a tough defeat for the board, which had high hopes for the $1.4 million they had hoped to gain if the bill had passed, such as more advanced placement courses, more teachers, and more money allotted to the athletic department. Many members stressed just how important it is for these kinds of bills to get passed if parents want what’s best for their kids at the school.

“It’s important that we get the money because if we don’t, we’ll never, ever see it again,” said Judy Castiglione, who was speaking about how the current A-1 law that was passed by Governor Corzine, makes it so any cuts in funding can never be recovered.

But all hope is not lost for the bill, as it now rests in the hands of others who might decide to keep some of the improvements that were not voted in.

“When the budget is defeated, it goes to the town council,” said Bob Feldmann, who doesn’t think every thing they worked for will go in vain. “They [the town council] decide how much should be cut. It could be left the way it is.”

One of the reasons the bill might not have passed, though, was the tax boost Jefferson residents were set to see if everything turned out in the Board of Ed’s favor. For residents with a house assessed at the average value of $368,700, they would have seen a $182 annual tax boost, which would have equaled $15.06 a month. This excluded municipal and county taxes.

Whether the results of the votes were good or bad, at least the board finally had the bodies in the seats to hear the determined future of both the budget and the children who attend the schools.


Richard Knight
61 Thompson Ave
Dover, New Jersey, 07801
Mobile: (973) 570-2276

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And Then What...?

February 26th, 2oo7

After each winning an Oscar, Forest Whitaker and Jennifer Hudson are on the short list for Hollywood African-American history. Here’s hoping neither go the way of their esteemed colleagues and make a Soul Plane 2

After two amazing Oscar wins for Forest Whitaker (Actor in a Leading Role, The Last King of Scotland) and Jennifer Hudson (Actress in a Supporting Role, Dreamgirls) at the 79th Annual Academy Awards, another victory was in the books for black Hollywood (sorry Eddie, stick to wearing fat suits). But with great power comes great responsibility, and some actors just love the smell of money too much to know when to quit putting their names on crappy, hackneyed pictures. takes an in-depth look at the post-Oscar performances of some recent award winners. J-Hud and Forest, take notes.

Jamie Foxx: After portraying Ray Charles to near perfection in 2004’s Ray (he even taped his eyes up so he’d be blind just like the musical icon), Jamie thought his next best role would be fighting a plane with artificial intelligence. Let us repeat that: Jamie thought his next best role would be fighting a plane with artificial intelligence.
Granted, Foxx did the film Stealth before he finished Ray. But having the words “Starring, Academy Award Winning Actor, Jamie Foxx,” plastered on all the posters couldn’t help his image once people actually saw it and heard him spouting off horrible one-liners like: “I will blast your aeroelastic ass right out of the sky!” He probably would have just been better off just making Booty Call 2: Double the Ass, Double the Laughs.

Halle Berry: Okay, so X-Men and B.A.P.S weren’t exactly the type of films that were going to get Halle Berry a seat next to Robert DeNiro or Dustin Hoffman anytime soon. But we were willing to accept that. Just seeing the beautiful actress with her caramel skin sunbathing topless in Swordfish was enough to make most of us forgive her for the empty seat.
But after her stunning performance in Monster’s Ball where she fell in love with Billy Bob Thorton’s slimy prison guard character, we expected big things from Halle Berry. We were not expecting Catwoman. Or Gothika. Or even X-Men: The Last Stand, for that matter. Please pay attention when we tell you Halle, wearing clear contacts and spreading out your arms to conjure up the tempests is not the kind of role an Oscar winner takes. Not even close.

Denzel Washington: Denzel as Malcolm X? Good for a nomination (but really, he was robbed). Denzel playing a crooked cop and double fisting two guns in Training Day? Good for the win. Denzel playing a time traveling ATF agent solving a convoluted case in the hold-your-nose, it stinks bomber, Déjà vu? Bad. Very bad.
Though it was directed by Tony Scott (the same guy who made Denzel a marching time bomb, Man on Fire), this horrible, off the wall, sci-fi tanker left much to be desired from the thespian who also starred in Broadway’s production of Caesar, post-Oscar. So what’s the moral of this story? Stick to being a badass and playing historical figures, Denzel, and stop time traveling. You’ll be just fine.

Morgan Freeman: For a man who has played a slave (Glory), the President (Deep Impact), and even God (Bruce Almighty), it was a pleasant reminder of just how human Morgan is when he finally won the Academy Award for his role as a down on his luck former boxer with a bad eye in Clint Eastwood’s, Million Dollar Baby.
So when Morgan decided his next role should be as a blind piano player (who does he think he is anyway, Jamie Foxx?) in the Jet-Li “epic,” Unleashed, a collective groan could be heard from anybody who actually saw him trade humorous barbs with Clint Eastwood.

Cuba Gooding Jr.: As a disgruntled NFL receiver with a Napoleon complex, Gooding was convincing enough to take home the Best Supporting Actor Oscar. But here’s how bad his post-Oscar movie choices were: In 2002, a man caught making bootleg copies of Snow Dogs was sentenced to the length of jail time usually reserved for convicted killers and third-time felons.
(There’s actually no reports of this ever really happening, but if it did, we would completely understand)

Three-6-Mafia: After winning the Original Song Oscar for “It’s Hard Out There For A Pimp”, them Memphis boys should’ve stayed fly for the remainder of ’06, especially since they were the first rap group ever to win the prestigious gold trophy. Instead, their next album has been sitting on Sony shelves like statuettes, and soon after their historical victory, member Crunchy Blac left the group. Most known unkowns indeed. - Rich B. Knight

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Gangsta Gone Fishin'
March 30th, 2007
Anybody who’s ever listened to an Ice Cube record can tell you he’s a badass. With genre defining albums like Amerikkka’s Most Wanted and The Predator (Not to mention his work with Westside Connection and N.W.A., jheri curl and all), there’s no doubt that “the other rapper with the word Ice in his name” is one of the most quintessential voices in the business. But when it comes to making movies…hmmm, not so much. Older films like Boyz n the Hood and Friday are undoubtedly hood classics, and more recent fare like Barbershop ain’t too shabby either. But Anaconda? Are We There Yet? With the Are We There Yet? sequel, Are We Done Yet? coming out on April 4th, takes an in-depth look at some of the Cube’s hits, misses, and overall bizarre movie choices. How many of these have YOU seen late at night on DVD?

Boyz n the Hood:
The film that made Ice Cube a household name (We mean with the Roger Ebert crowd). Ice Cube’s performance as Darin ‘Doughboy’ Baker was pretty much perfect as a gang banger in South Central L.A. just trying to live (Too bad he doesn’t). With morality, a deep underlying message, and unforgettable characters, it might be Cuba Gooding’s story, but Ice Cube’s the heart of it. And that scene where Ice Cube avenges Ricky’s death in the parking still haunts us today. If you don’t think Ice Cube can act, then you haven’t seen this film.

With Wendell (Faizon Love) from “The Parent ‘Hood” playing Big Worm, and Chris Tucker’s outlandish performance as Smokey (“You got knocked the f*ck out!”), you might tend to forget that Ice Cube was actually the main character in this broad comedy that takes place in only 16 hours. Portraying Craig Jones, a poor guy who just got canned, this adventure of two guys just trying to pay off a drug dealer—oh, and by the way, Chris Tucker counting a wad of cash, telling Worm to turn his head, flipping over the money and counting it over again is one of the funniest scenes of all time—showed that Ice Cube could deliver the funny if he wanted to. And Michael Jordan even likes it! This one’s a keeper.

And thus began the melting of Ice Cube’s movie career. Fighting a giant snake that eventually swallows and regurgitates Jon Voight is one thing, but then exclaiming: “Is snakes out der dis big?!” is another. Also of note, this film features Danny Trejo, Owen Wilson, and Jennifer Lopez’s ass. That alone should make it a winner, right? But sadly, no. Not at all. Thank God he didn’t star in the sequel.

The Player’s Club:
Ice Cube was working overtime with this one. Working as an actor, writer, and making his directorial debut (As well as working on the soundtrack. Remember ‘We Be Clubbin’?), whether this was actually a good film or not is debatable. But with Bernie Mac, Jamie Foxx, Charlie Murphy, Michael Clark Duncan and the sultry LisaRay, Ice Cube has certainly made worse films. Did we happen to mention Anaconda?

Three Kings:
Sharing screen time with Oscar winner George Clooney and recent Oscar nominee Mark Wahlburg should spell utter disaster for Ice Cube in this strange comedy/political actioner. But strangely enough, Ice Cube seems to fit in just fine as Sgt. Chief Elgin. After finding a treasure map in some dude’s ass, Ice Cube and the gang go on a treasure hunt across Iraq. From the hood to the desert, nobody can say Ice Cube hasn’t gotten his frequent flyer miles.

Now here’s the Ice Cube we like to see. Smart, funny, and still giving that good old gangster stare, even as a barbershop owner just looking to keep his shop from going under. Portraying Calvin Palmer, it seems that Ice Cube once again tips his hat and let’s everybody else get all the laughs, especially Cedric the Entertainer, who slays as a braggadocios barber who seriously hasn’t cut any hair since Palmer’s father died. The sequel wasn’t nearly as good.

Are We There Yet?:
Biggest-transition-ever. Who knew the gangster could go from being a boy n the hood to raising a boy in the neighborhood in this PG rated comedy? Then again, Eddie Murphy did it. And at least Cube didn’t have to dress up in a giant stalk of broccoli to get any laughs. Cube at least has that going for him.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

School of Rock AllStars rock Mountain Creek

March 16, 2007
Rock music doesn’t have an age. From the moment a child can pick up a pencil, they can pick up a guitar and start jamming away. Or at least, that’s what school of rock founder, Paul Green believes, who brought his All-Star band along with him to perform at the Mountain Creek Vernon Base again for the second time. The show took place on March 11th at 1 p.m., and it was free to the public.

“We had a great show the last time we were there, and it’s just a great place to play on a nice, balmy day,” says Mr. Green.

Accompanied by a nicely sized horn section along with the standard guitars, basses, and drums, the band played tunes from Frank Zappa, Led Zeppelin, and even Radiohead, all of which were chosen by the founder himself.

“Next time, we’ll play Blue Oyster Cult,” he promises, the song “Seven Screaming Diz-Busters,” being a great challenge for the kids to master, some of whom can actually play Jimmy Paige’s “Stairway to Heaven,” solo flawlessly.

After graduating college in Philadelphia, it was in 1998 that Mr. Green came up with the idea for a rock school for kids. Having faith that anyone can play in a band as long as they put their heart and soul into it, Mr. Green set the age bar low and the standards high, with kids from five all the way up to 18 being a part of the movement.

His goal was to make rock music an educational tool, similar to how some choose to go to the Julliard to study classical music. So instead of Chopin, there’s Alice Cooper. In exchange for Mozart, there’s Metallica. So the dedication to music is the still there; it’s just played to the beat of a different drummer.

Including this concert, the touring All-Star group, which usually consists of the older, from 13-18 set, has also played or will be playing at the now closed CBGB’s, The Knitting Factory, and even this year’s upcoming Lollapalooza.

But if the concept of children turned rockers turned concert performers sounds a bit familiar to you, you’re not going crazy. The story, and even the very title, “School of Rock,” was used in the 2003 comedy of the same name, starring Jack Black.

“I thought it was pretty lame,” says Mr. Green, who made his own little documentary called Rock School a few months before the big theater release came out.

“They just ripped us off and didn’t even come to me,” his sentiments for the film being less than stellar.

Still, any press is good press, and with more of Mr. Green’s schools of rock popping up all over the country, the movie could only have done the school more good than harm. So, if you’re wondering how the kids have already been elevated to rock god status, Mr. Green has the answer: “We make them.” It turns out rock has an age, after all: timeless.
Picture found here:

Continuing to carry a tune

June 28, 2006

MORRIS TWP. –Across the street from the Morris Plains train station is a quant little restaurant one might miss if looking both ways instead of straight ahead where it placidly sits. It’s a steakhouse called Arthur’s, and it’s also the restaurant of choice for musician David Sampson, a Morris Township resident who recently has been awarded a $9,000 grant from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts for his achievements and to continue his career in musical compositions. This is the fourth time he’s been awarded in this category in the past 23 years.

“David was awarded because of his skills,” says Marguerite d’ Aprile-Smith, the director of external affairs for the NJSCA, which also is celebrating the 40th anniversary of the state-legislated group. “The program is highly competitive.”

As he steps into the restaurant, wearing glasses and all black—back T-shirt and black windbreaker pants that the breeze rustles through as he steps through the door—he walks over to the bar with a pile of papers under his arm and takes a seat. He’s obviously no stranger to this building.

When he sits at the high barstool, he strokes his wispy, white beard with one hand and digs his knuckle into his knee with the other. He claims his favorite steak is the filet mignon but that is not what he’s craving this afternoon. Without even looking at the menu, he already knows what he is going to order: the chili. The chili and an iced tea.

He recommends the burger and makes a circle in the air with his finger like a propeller on a helicopter: “It comes with an onion they put on top,” he says with a gregarious smile that makes his eyes squint a bit behind his fitting glasses.

A young waiter walks over and immediately recognizes Sampson. So Sampson politely asks, “What do I want?”

“The chili?” the waiter asks skeptically with a raised eyebrow.

“The chili,” Mr. Sampson agrees with a nod and a grin.

The waiter behind the bar walks over to the other side and places the order.

For being such a small place, it is very crowded at 1 p.m. and a loud din of voices collapses on the area like a tsunami as people in the back raise their beer mugs to the television screen saluting the World Cup.

But even with all the noise, Sampson can still be heard; his sturdy, calm voice a force of its own, which just may be another talent to add to his already stunning array of abilities.
At age 55, Sampson already has a repertoire of classical pieces that would make most accomplished musicians swoon. With composition credits for more than 15songs and 13 recordings under his belt, including a concept piece based entirely on Anne Taylor’s novel, “Breathing Lessons,” this musician raconteur also has modesty as a strong suit.

Small Percentage

“Even though a small percentage of the population is involved in classical music, there are still enough out there to sustain it, and it’s something I don’t think I could live without,” he says.

Born in 1951 in Charlottesville, Va., and spending a portion of his youth in South Carolina, Sampson moved to Morristown in 1978 where his wife got into the New Jersey Symphony.

“I love Morristown,” Sampson says while using his straw to push about a bobbing lemon in the iced tea the waiter just brought over. “Everything except the traffic.”

As a youth, Sampson said his parents didn’t push music but supported his decision to become a classical musician. They sent him to a community where his talents could flourish, and there he learned about harmony, counterpoint and other such things that musicians need to know to fully grasp music. His weapon of choice is the trumpet, and even as he sits at the bar while he speaks, he scratches his name and drums on the back of his neck with his finely shaped fingers as if he already were composing a song right there in his head.

Besides composing pieces, he also has performed with The Temptations and progressive rock group YES, but he always comes back to his classical roots.

A man of many traits, when he’s not riding his BMW 1200 LT motorcycle or listening to the Harry Potter series on audiotape, he’s spending time as a composer-in-residence at the Colonial Symphony Orchestra in Morristown where he provides input to aspiring teenagers wanting to be musicians. And as he waits for his food, he taps on the large pile of papers that rest in the bar that he carried in the door.

Food arrives

Just then, the waiter comes back with one hamburger (with an onion) and a bowl of chili. Sampson mashes up his crackers and twitters his fingers above his steaming bowl, dropping the remnants and crumbs into his cheese-topped meal like a long-robed magician sprinkling pixie dust into a caldron.

After he finishes eating, he asks, “So what’s this article for? For the concert on Thursday?” he says as he sweeps his expansive arm to the sheets of paper again.

When he learns that it’s mostly about his achievements and the grant money he received from the NJSCA, he laughs.

“Oh, that’s what it’s about?”

He hunches forward, chuckles a bit, puts his lips to his straw and takes a sip from his cup. The finished chili by his side does smell quite good, and when he finishes off the last of his drink, the people in the back raise their glasses to the TV for a second time, saluting.


Off the Radar
North Hollywood, CA
Tommy Boy
February 2007

Statistically, growing up in a single parent home doesn’t bode well for the child. But for Bennett “Laze” and Justin “Royal City” Talmadge Armstrong, two 16-year old twin brothers who also double as the West Coast group 2XL, it was their mother’s heroics that pushed them to beat the odds stacked against them.

“When we were younger,” Royal says, “we were like, ‘Ma, can you get us a microphone?’ She bought us a cheap 40-dollar mic, but we couldn’t even use it that month because we didn’t have electricity. Instead of paying for the bill, she bought us the microphone.

It was faith such as this, though, that actually makes the release of the brothers’ debut album, Neighborhood Rapstar, bittersweet, as their biggest fan, who at press time, currently lies in a hospital bed paralyzed from her third bout with terminal cancer. “She was never the kind of mom who would follow you into the studio,” Laze says. “Everything that’s happening now is because of her.”

And everything that’s happening now is pretty big. Signed by Tommy Boy Records (Coolio, Naughty By Nature), and with a hit single, the party friendly, “Kissing Game,” the two brothers have a fan base that is growing,

But whether their success lasts down the line is still unknown. What is known, though, is that they won’t give up, no matter how high the odds are against them. They are their mother’s son, after all.

Wade Waters

Off the Radar
Wandering Soul Records
Columbia, MD
January 2007

Wade Waters had a lofty goal in mind when they decided to revitalize old school Hip-Hop with their debut album, Dark Water. So lofty, in fact, that they called upon some of rap’s greatest raconteurs as their inspiration. “When we made the album, we looked at it like, “What if Nas and AZ made an album together?” says Jason “Haysoos” Nickels, who, with his partner, Ashley “SoulStice” Llorens, decided that if they were going to do this project together, they might as well channel the best in the business.

But if you think this sounds overwhelming, you should hear what they do at their day jobs. “I’m an electrical engineer for the military,” SoulStice says. Haysoos’ job isn’t too shabby either—he teaches African-American studies at the University of Maryland. “Being a teacher, I find that I can actually incorporate rap into my lectures,” he says.

Heady stuff, but if the notion of a rapping electrical engineer and teacher conjures up images of pocket protectors and braces, then you don’t know Wade Waters. “We don’t want to say we’re not street, because you tend to alienate the audience when you say that,” SoulStice says. “But when you think about it, the opposite of conscious is unconscious, and we’re definitely not that either.”

While Nas and AZ never did make an album together, Haysoos and SoulStice are doing their best to come as close as possible to that dream collaboration.

DJ Shadow

Critical Beatdown
December 2006

Josh “DJ Shadow” Davis has always had music in his life—and even a little before that. “Four hours before I was born, I was at a Tower of Power concert with my mom and dad,” he says. It’s this closeness to music that has made DJ Shadow world renowned for his ability to take obscure melodies and mix them into masterpieces.

With trendsetting albums like Entroducing and The Private Press made completely out of samples, everybody thought they had DJ Shadow figured out. That is, until he released his latest album, The Outsider, a kaleidoscope of sounds featuring everything from Hyphy to Hard Rock.

And with the album’s single “3 Freaks,” a dance-friendly track, getting played on the radio, some fans have cried foul, claiming DJ Shadow has changed.

“People get comfortable when they think they have you pegged,” Shadow says. “Hyphy is something people in the Bay Area feel passionately about, and when I made [the album], I was channeling all the heroes of the movement, just as I was channeling all the heroes of the early Hip-Hop movement when I made Entroducing.” With a mindset like that, maybe change isn’t so bad after all.

Picture found at

Hasan Salaam

October 2006,
Off the Radar

Jersey City, NJ
5th Column Media/Day by Day Entertainment

Sitting across the street from the opulent law building at Rutgers’ Newark campus in New Jersey, Hasan Salaam obsesses over the dichotomy of wealth and poverty. He’s been that way ever since the movie Malcolm X. The movie jolted him into new social awareness.

“When that movie came out, we saw the preview and my mother said I couldn’t see it until I read The Autobiography of Malcolm X and I had this bigger perspective,” says Salaam. His take on American oppression was punctuated by a cop peering down at him suspiciously from the nearby campus steps.

This expanded outlook led Salaam to become a Muslim. He discusses his ideologies on his debut release, Paradise Lost, an album that garnered attention after Salaam won Best Live Performance and Best Underground Song of the Year for Lost’s “Blaxploitation” at the 3rd Annual Underground Music Awards in 2005. He attributes his vitriolic lyrics to the belief that, “If we don’t recognize our worth, others are going to take our culture and do some Elvis shit to us. They’re going to take it and 10 years from now they’re going to say they started it.” And for that reason, Salaam continues to rage against the establishment.