Tuesday, May 17, 2011


A group of men and women graduated from Detroit/Wayne County’s 3rd Circuit Court Adult Drug Court program on Monday. The program is a creation of the aforementioned court, and administered by the Salvation Army of Detroit, whose downtown Detroit main headquarters (a converted warehouse) also hosted the commencement ceremony. Eight of the 25 graduates were present for the noontime commencement (others had work commitments), dressed in caps and gowns.
The origins of the program were to offer non-violent substance-addicted offenders an alternative to imprisonment. Entrance into the program is at the discretion of the presiding judges in the defendant’s case. Once accepted into the program, participants are put through an intensive 12-step drug/alcohol rehabilitation, and also including educational instruction/GED, life-skills training, job-readiness training and placement.
R&B singer Kem, a Detroit native, was present at the event as a keynote speaker. He told of his own background with substance abuse and revealed to participants that he also completed the Salvation Army’s program at the same facility: “Because of my own background with substance abuse…anytime I have an opportunity to give back on this level, it’s a good thing,” Kem says he still attends group therapy sessions and claims to have been sober now for 20 years.
Another celebrity of sorts was also in attendance-- Judge Kevin Robbins was among the justices who participated in the graduation ceremony. He says he oversees over 30 individuals a year whose cases he diverts to the Drug Court program. He told the story of a new graduate in attendance whose case he supervised. Curtis Rowe was a basketball player for UCLA in the late 60s and early 70s, where the team won championships in ’69, ’70 and ’71. He was drafted and joined the Pistons team. He played for the Pistons for five years (among his teammates were current mayor Dave Bing) and three years for Boston. Apparently Rowe relocated to Detroit at some point, and somewhere along the way, things went badly enough to get arrested. Robbins went on to say that Rowe was a sports idol of his as a child, and he got to meet him twice in the distant past, and was struck by the irony when Rowe appeared before him as a criminal defendant. Robbins presented Rowe with a photograph of Robbins as a child playing basketball, asking him to keep this image in mind if things get stressful in maintaining his sobriety.
…Rowe says he likes Miami for the NBA finals.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


Artist: MC Ren

Release: Kizz My Black Azz

Label: Ruthless/Priority/EMI

Year: 1992

“Kizz My Black Azz” is the first solo EP from former N.W.A. member MC Ren. Quiet as it's kept, Compton, California native Lorenzo "MC Ren" Patterson allegedly signed on to Eazy-E’s Ruthless Records as a teenager with the intent of being a solo artist. So the story goes, a fateful opportunity presented itself when N.W.A. founding member Ice Cube took a leave of absence from the group to attend an architectural-drafting vocational college in Arizona. Eazy allegedly asked Ren to contribute to ghostwriting raps for Eazy and making guest-appearances on recordings like “Ruthless Villain”. By the time tech-school grad Ice Cube came back into the fold, Ren was a full-fledged member of the group.

While N.W.A. as a group managed to change hip-hop and pop-culture forever with their groundbreaking and controversial music, unfortunately, Ren’s solo debut was clouded in the aftermath of the group’s disintegration in the early 1990s. By the time of this release, Ice Cube had quit the group and had released two solo albums, and Dr. Dre (along with associate D.O.C.) had recently defected from Ruthless to form what would eventually become Death Row Records. Within N.W.A., Ren had done solo-style cuts before (“If it ain’t Ruff”) but this is effort is clearly driven by Ren’s direction.

“Kizz My Black Azz” finds Ren treading familiar territory, telling tales of wayward young women (“Behind the Scenez”), reckless gangbangers (“The Valley”), post-fame hangers-on (“Hound Dogz”) and bitter rivals (on the title cut).

The production on this release is exclusively handled by DJ Bobcat (see also- Ice Cube, LL Cool J, Tupac), who proves himself to be just as capable as his contemporary Dr. Dre in crafting head-nodding, sample-heavy breakbeats which alternate between uptempo and pre-Chronic G-funk.
The best song on the six-cut effort is the battle-anthem “Final Frontier”—no Star Trek references, but Boogie Down Productions’ “The Bridge is Over” is given a West Coast-revamp.

In retrospect, there are some criticisms to bear here- Ren continues the unabashed sexism of N.W.A. here, and, viewed at face value, “Behind the Scenez” crosses into gratuitous territory (the narrative climaxes with incest and group sex). Also the title cut finds Ren bashing rap acts that involve live musicians in their performance lineup; it proved to be kind of nearsighted in light of the rise of acts like the Roots, Black Eyed Peas, Lauryn Hill and others. Ren gets props for being honest in his opinions, but some of them were clearly off-base.

Ren’s future solo albums would prove to be somewhat uneven production-wise, so this is arguably his most sonically consistent release. For fans of Golden-Age West Coast rap, this is a worthy buy, but for the uninitiated, N.W.A. and Ice Cube’s first LPs should come first.

*Note: The 2003 re-release features the music video to "Final Frontier".

@ Amazon- http://tinyurl.com/6y938ud

Sunday, May 01, 2011

NBC'S MEET THE PRESSNBC's David Gregory and this week's roundtable on national politics; New York City's mayor Michael Bloomberg makes an intriguing suggestion about immigration policy and the city of Detroit:

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