Head-Roc: Black Leon Album Review

Aural Appreciation Fridays: Current Music in Wani’s World

Head Roc: Black Leon Album Review

 The Black Leon Project by Head_Roc

http://www.head-roc.com

Since this is Black Music Month, as proclaimed by President Obama, I decided to start my music review feature by focusing on one of my favorite DMV artists, who should get more shine in my opinion. I’m all for diversity in music but I feel like the artists who display any sort of political opinion or overt pride in their Blackness get absolutely no airplay on mainstream sources, because of the corporate takeover of media. One of the reasons that I have always admired Head-Roc is because of his unapologetic love for his culture and his Chocolate City, before and after gentrification set in. I had the chance to pose some questions to Head-Roc, which he eloquently answered, and I will include below after my review.

Wow, what can I say about this dude. Me and Heady, as I like to call him, go waaay back like penny candies from the corner store! Back in the early 90’s, I began my foray into journalism by starting a newsletter called Strictly For The Underground. Back then, I tried to really immerse myself in local hip hop culture and I was always posted up at State of the Union on U St for the ciphers and DJ sets. There was a sea of wannabe MCs but the group that stood out to me was Infinite Loop, DC’s version of the Wu Tang Clan. As it turned out, Head-Roc was my neighbor, living right up the block from me on 12th St NE, so we ended up hanging out. I used to chill with him and his roommate DJ Marv on Friday nights after work just sitting around making mixtapes, hitting blunts and politicking about Hip Hop and life. He used to burn this really fragrant incense and I always liked the vibe of he and his folks because they were respectful and never tried to push up on me. One of us would cook, and he would supply the herb and the atmosphere. Even over the years, whenever I would run into him or one of the Loop crew, it was always love.

I have known Head-Roc from his early days of spitting that gully shit to his evolution into conscious, informative, revolutionary Hip Hop. One of the things that I admire most about Heady is his tenacity. As the business of Hip Hop has evolved it has become evident that in order to thrive on your own terms as an artist, it is necessary to create your own lane. Heady recognized this early on and has stayed on his hustle, bypassing all the traps of lyrical and beat trends and keeping it authentic, always repping DC and Black culture. As he matured spiritually and emotionally, it couldn’t help but be reflected in his art. From grimy to punk to his current project, Black Leon, which takes it back to the essence of soulful samples, Afrobeat horns and clever storytelling.

In the vein of Public Enemy and M1, Head-Roc spits that politically charged, revolutionary Black love hip hop that needs to be in rotation to encourage the masses.  His concepts of Black Rock Star Superhero, Sistar, and even Black Leon aka Napoleon is appropriate in a time when much of what we hear in Hip Hop is drug induced, misogynistic and lyrically mundane.  Yo, I like a good twerk song as much as the average club goer, but damn can we get some balance?

Conscious without corniness is his lane and he stays in it with each track.  This brother should be on tours at festivals like Afropunk, AFRAM and other diaspora oriented music festivals. One of my favorite tracks is C’mon Home, lamenting the erosion of Hip Hop anchored in Black Love and inviting artists to once again create from this perspective. His official theme song, Black Rock Star Super Hero, is about exactly what it sounds like…an audio graphic novel encouraging us to love ourselves and be our own saviors. The Afrobeat inspired Love The Way She Dance is a lyrically tantalizing take on a 21st century love song. Heady’s storytelling prowess shines through on Bully, where you can envision clearly how the situation went down at the bar. I’m sure many of us can relate to the drunken fuckery that can suddenly turn a chill situation into an “I might need some bail money” situation. His candor and transparency on Write My Life and INVANCIBLE give a chronological picture into his spiritual evolution over the past two decades.

I have always felt that baring your soul through your art is what makes it unique and relatable, which is what Head-Roc does on these songs. The Black Ink produced project, Black Leon is a must buy for music lovers of all genres because it is simply good music that comes from an authentic well of passion for both People of Color and DC, formerly known as Chocolate City. Support my Brother Head-Roc, the Black Rock Star Superhero, by adding it to your music collection and I promise you won’t be disappointed.

  • What was the catalyst for your switch to conscious music?

I’d have to say the catalyst was probably my relationship with my now ex-wife and mother of my daughter. This was some years ago now, about 2002/2003, and during the eve of the 2nd Persian Gulf War invasion of Iraq. She is of Iraqi and Palestinian descent, and so I have the experience of watching someone I love go through a hell I could not imagine… save to relate it to history of my own peoples as enslaved Africans and their descendants. It took some time, but once I began to understand how the histories of our Peoples connect with relationship to managing the challenges of living with the decisions of White Supremacy, I began to walk the path of social justice anchored artistic expression. First, I directed my art to support in favor of my ex-wife’s Arab heritage against the beast, and later I would do so for my own heritage as a descendant of enslaved Africans brought to the Americas to build European wealth.

  • If you were offered a distribution deal with a major label again, would you take it?
  • Why or why not?

Let me say that I am a businessman and so yes, I would entertain the overture by a major label to distribute my art. Of course, and it’s no secret, it’d have to be a situation and arrangement where the culture of all things Head-Roc is present in how business is done.

 

  • Do you find racism to be more prevalent in the US or overseas when dealing with promoters?

I’d have to say, for my experience, racism here in the US is way more prevalent as well as covert – making it harder to detect. I’ve been overseas (I Love It!) and have had a few instances where someone didn’t want to be next to me for no apparent reason other than that I’m Black – Maybe. Over here in the US, where I am a natural born American, I am, overtly or clandestinely, continuously under fire for declaring pride in my African Heritage, and pointing out the tremendous impact enslaving Africans to build wealth played in the founding and subsequent progression of this Nation.

  • How would you advise young artists to proceed when attempting to get paid for a gig?

As with any Profession, when you are first getting started there is a vetting process. Amongst your crew; artist peers; family; friends, open mic organizers, venues, concert promoters, the press, radio, etc. You have to make it through all the layers to be considered valuably marketable to invest time and resources organizing shows where all parties involved are taken care of financially. This “right of passage” process can take years, and sometimes decades, to accomplish. Once you reach that level, my advice to artists is be sure to hold true to the value of your request for financial compensation for your services.

  • How many members of the original Infinite Loop are still pursuing music or the music business?

One Two, Theory, and Grizz record, release and rock together as A.R.K. I’m working with Face (One Two’s partner in Organnic Symmetry). L.O.S from 13 degrees East (Theory’s partner with D-Man), DJ RBI is the Top DJ in Chocolate City, Jarobi (ATCQ) is Rhyming with Dres (Black Sheep) in EVITAN as well as enjoying being a rock star in the Culinary World. Platted Mind (Blas) is gearing up for a Solo Release.

  • What lessons did you learn from your daughter that you have incorporated into your musical style and content?

The lesson that I have learned from my daughter Jahmila is to remain genuine. Every Album I’ve released since my daughter was born, has been approved by her. She likes her daddy’s art expression a certain way; energized and crisp, not too docile or chill. That’s how she knows me, full of energy and always looking for and/or leading the next adventure. She likes the songs I create that pay tribute to the people we admire, and she like my “story” songs. I’d be remiss if I also didn’t not ad that she does like the songs where I big up myself and talk a little smack. J

  • Are you going to run for Mayor of DC in the future? City Council, Ward Council?

I have been asked many times these same questions by a few folks with the power and influence to help organize an effort that would result in a resounding win for the Citizens of Chocolate City. Right now, I’m focused on continuing my sustainability and securing my future so that I can remain a producing artist to the end. In that space, I am always looking for a Black Rock Star Super Hero DC local candidate to back with the weight and influence of the name and brand I have been building the last 25 years.

  • Do you think politics and musical expression, especially hip-hop, naturally go together?

Absolutely. In my research, observation, and opinion Black music in America is born out of political repression; meaning since our enslavers wouldn’t let us express ourselves in the normal course and flow of decent conversation, we had to revert to natures #1 soul expression: music. Hip-Hop is a link in the chain of development of Black music expression. Early Hip-Hop music has deep political expressive roots. Why? Because of it’s effectiveness to reach communities living under a system that worked to stifle Black/Brown expression. That’s its origins, and I am happy to play my part continuing the tradition as we move into the future.

 

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Taste of 3 Cities Baltimore Food Truck Festival: The Diabetic Gourmet Review

 

Taste of 3 Cities Food Truck Festival in Baltimore 

About last weekend, once again I got to indulge my passions of finding great street food, live music and enjoying some Baltimore people watching in the sunshine. This time, I actually had a goal, which was to see if I could make healthy food choices from the trucks represented and if the foods were really viable options for my picky palate. I mean, let’s keep it real, most food truck festivals serve food of the greasy, sweet comfort variety, and my will power is not always on point, so most of the time I will go for the funnel cake over the low fat sorbet or the gyro fries over the Greek salad. Just being real, that’s why I call myself #thediabeticgourmet. My gourmet palate overrides the usually bland healthier options sometimes.  Anyhow, with my trusty, health conscious BFF in tow, we headed to Baltimore’s Patterson Park to check out the action.

I have some stipulations that I go by when deciding which food trucks to try. First of all, there should be some type of line that indicates people are willing to wait for your culinary creations.. Secondly, if you advertise some type of grilled food, I should smell smoke and hopefully see some wafting up from behind your truck. Last of all, your signage and customer service should be welcoming. If you can’t take the time to adorn your place of business properly and greet your paying customers, then I’m not sure you put your best effort into the food prep either. Of course, cleanliness is a must, I need to see some plastic gloves and please don’t have the same person touching the money and the food.  With all of this in mind, here are my choices for the healthiest food trucks at Taste of 3 Cities Baltimore.

The first truck we stopped at was Crossroads Bistro, owned and operated by Brian and Nicole. All of their options looked delish but I settled on the Vietnamese veggie cannolis, with an Asian sesame dipping sauce. These were really good and the veggies were perfectly seasoned and roasted, with the sauce not being overpowering. I had to pace myself already because they were a bit filling and I had a long way to go. My friend ordered the Spanish Coney Island chili dogs, not as healthy but quite tasty. I couldn’t resist one small bite, for the sake of good journalism, you know?  Their customer service was excellent because they even provided us with some sunscreen while we waited for our order. We got there early to beat the crowds but the sun was blazing early as well. Just a random thought, I don’t recall having to use sunscreen as a kid. I thought melanin was the ultimate sunscreen but oh well, I guess the ozone layer is gone for real.

Next stop was the Pepsi promo stand where they were handing out sample shots of the new Pepsi Ginger cola, 1893. I’m neither a soda nor alcohol drinker but if I did, this would be the perfect mixer for some dark liquor like Bourbon or Cognac. Again, not particularly healthy but I’m sure I did no damage with that tiny shot glass. Right behind them was the Old Bay truck, handing out samples of snack mixes seasoned with Old Bay. The unique combinations, that included white chocolate chips and Chex Mix and popcorn were interesting enough for me to try them.  My first attempt to take a handful caused me to drop the whole cup. I figured that was God telling me to move along to the next truck, not worth the carbs. So I listened and moved on…

It was time to quench my thirst now since the heat was beating down and my little bottle of water was now warm. We came up on a Russian Food truck that served Birch Juice, straight from the Birch tree. I had never heard of such a thing but I was willing to try, it looked very refreshing and the Russian couple in line waiting for their Blini order encouraged us to try it. A quick Google search revealed some of the health benefits of Birch juice such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron, Vitamins B and C and amino acids, all of which our bodies crave. I was pleasantly surprised by its lightly sweetened almost maple-like flavor, kind of like a flavored water. I can’t really compare it to another flavor because well, it was unique but definitely drinkable.

Now on to the real test, I decided to try the Goganics truck, simply because their food looked so good and clearly the name implied healthy. They had a few shrimp dishes but I chose the quinoa salad because I am really trying to like it. I’m ashamed to admit that I decided to take it home but it is still in my fridge, a week later. LOL. I really need to stop fooling myself but it looked so appealing, with the roasted peppers, red onions and feta cheese all crumbled on top. I think it’s a texture thing with me but the flavor was great. To be fair, all of their offerings like Lemon Pepper Wings and Shrimp Po Boys would have been my choice any other day, when I wasn’t attempting the healthiest options. I plan to go back and order a proper meal to really get the whole Goganic flavor experience.

My next to last stop of the day was the Koco Food Truck, which specialized in Korean food, which I absolutely love! Now, I can make a mean Bulgogi myself, so when I tasted their sample and it melted in my mouth, I was hooked. They offered what I thought was the best option for a flavorful protein packed meal without the starch of rice or bread. I had the BiBimBap bowl, which is an explosion of deliciousness in your mouth. It is comprised of the proteins of your choice, I chose Beef Bulgogi, along with cucumbers, carrots, spinach, bean sprouts and mushrooms. I had mine topped with an egg and some spicy Siracha sauce and I was in foodie heaven! That should have been my last stop but sadly my carb cravings took over and I succumbed to the hype of the Gypsy Queen truck’s Crabcake Cone. The Crabcake was good and so were the fries but the sauce they used was slathered on so much that it overpowered the flavors of the dish. I was kinda salty that I spent my $15 and couldn’t even eat it because it got so soggy so quickly. That was my greed kicking in.   I wanted to support the Jammin Flava truck but I didn’t smell any jerk coming from it when I walked by so I wasn’t sure it was going to be worth my dollars. By then, I was stuffed anyway so I didn’t need to even look at anymore food. This was definitely a great foodie event and I look forward to the next one. It is feasible to have all healthy food options at a Food truck festival, controlling my cravings is the real issue. Oh well, I love good food and it is what it is. Guess I need to amp up my exercise again and keep on cooking because clearly I’m not strong enough for outside options yet.  This weekend its off to NYC, Brooklyn to be exact and I’m eating on a budget and being health conscious so we shall see how it goes…

#TheGathering and #TheArtistsCompound will be putting on similar events all summer in the Baltimore area in case you missed the event. The next one will be at the Hollywood Diner Food truck park on 6/17. All information is listed at http://www.thegatheringbaltimore.com and www.artistscompound.com

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