Posts Tagged ‘Tupac Shakur’
Music legend Dick Griffey has passed away. Everything I do, have done or hope to do is inextricably linked to Mr. Griffey. He will be missed in ways that words (ironically enough) can’t explain.
Back in 1996, while working for NARAS (The Grammy Awards) I wrote my
first-ever published piece. It was one draft, written in about 40 minutes and emailed to the L.A. Times to “chastise” the paper for its coverage of the death of rapper Tupac Shakur, concentrating on if/how the record label Death Row records would survive as opposed to the more important issue of Black on Black crime.
One draft, written in 40 minutes…published in its entirety in the L.A. Times on September 23, almost 14 years ago to the day.
About two days later I received a call from “this guy”…big voice, authoritative…inspiring almost fear and awe simultaneously. At first I thought I was in trouble with the police or something…or made the wrong people at Death Row angry.
(The reputation of the label preceded itself and was very real.)
Anyhow, back to the phone call. He started right in, no icebreaker conversation.
“Saw your article in the Times…we need to talk.”
It was Dick Griffey.
“I’m Dick Griffey…my address is…”
He didn’t give me all of his backstory…and he didn’t have to at all. Any student of music history, much less music in Los Angeles knew of Dick Griffey.
(But just in case you don’t know…get your history lesson HERE.)
In short, he’s the man responsible for much of Soul Train’s success outside of Don Cornelius, created Shalamar, Klymaxx and discovered Babyface. I knew who I was talking to on the phone…and he sought me out?!
I knew my place and humbly followed directions.
Later that week I met him at his offices on Cahuenga Blvd. in Hollywood and we sat for a good two hours and had dinner. I was 26 at the time.
Mr. Griffey was short in his sentences and to the point. He was like twice the size of my father and twice as imposing. Meaing, I paid twice as much attention. Suge Knight wasn’t half as scary as Mr. Griffey.
“You’re doing the wrong thing. You should be writing all the time, not messing around in this music business. THAT (writing) is where your talent is. Your words will matter far more, far longer than anything you’ll ever do in music.”
I just listened, occasionally nodding my ahead in acknowledgment.
Mr. Griffey went on to explain how he funded/helped Suge Knight start Death Row and how my article spoke volumes to him on a personal level.
I just listened. When grown folks speak, you shut up and listen. He didn’t give me all of his backstory…and he didn’t need to in truth. I already knew it.
Mr. Griffey wanted me to promise him that no matter what I’d keep writing and keep telling the truth.
I promised…and then I went back to listening.
In fact, I’ve been writing ever since. There is no “Mo’Kelly” or “report” or any combination thereof without Mr. Griffey. Anyone reading this now, is because Mr. Griffey took time out of his day, his life, to pull a young brother aside and offer words of encouragement, insight and direction. He saw something in me nobody in this world else had.
In between his comments about what I should be doing with my life he expounded on his feelings about the failings of our fellow African-Americans; where we were headed and the brick wall which approached.
Man, I remember it like it was yesterday. I was in awe then and am awestruck he’s gone now.
If I’ve made any positive impact in anyone’s lives through my words as a writer, the credit invariably goes to Mr. Griffey. If you should like or appreciate anything I’ve done in a literary sense over the years, thanks be to Mr. Griffey. If I should manage to touch someone in the future through my words…the credit will still go to Mr. Griffey.
He will be missed, but his impact clearly lives on through me and many, many others. Godspeed Mr. Griffey. As promised, I’m still writing.
Below is the article which started it all, an original copy hangs on my wall in my office…and somewhat sadly enough it’s still relevant 14 years later.
|More Important Issues in Shakur’s Death Than Music Label’s Success|
|Los Angeles Times (pre-1997 Fulltext) – Los Angeles, Calif.|
|Author:||MORRIS W. O’KELLY|
|Date:||Sep 23, 1996|
|Section:||Calendar; PART-F; Entertainment Desk|
|Text Word Count:||699|
“When millions of people have been cheated for centuries, restitution is a costly process. Inferior education, poor housing, unemployment, inadequate health care–each is a bitter component of the oppression that has been our heritage. Each will require billions of dollars to correct. Justice so long deferred has accumulated interest and its cost for this society will be substantial in financial as well as human terms.”
- Martin Luther King Jr.
King never cut a record, nor did he “freestyle” on the mike, yet still his writings were an affirmation of the social ills of American life in his time. Much of today’s gangsta rap is “The New Testament” . . . with a little more or little less elan, depending on your viewpoint. Like it or not, rap music arguably has the attention of more of the collective American youth than King, Malcolm X or Marcus Garvey ever had combined.
Is that all bad?
No, not as long as we teach our children how to separate the message from the misogyny and the information from the insanity. Don’t believe the hype that these concepts are inextricably linked. The signal-to-noise ratio in music is only as strong as the foundation that we have laid for young people.
The death of Tupac Shakur is not a “wake-up call”–a phrase we use more as a cliche than an actual call to arms. It must be a catalyst to exhaustive public action on the problems confronting black men. Another black man died violently long before he was 30, and all that is being talked about is the future being cloudy for Death Row Records (“Future Is Cloudy at Death Row,” Calendar, Sept. 14). Another black mother will spend the rest of her life mourning her son, and all that is being asked is whether Shakur’s recording label will be able to attract new talent. With myself being only 26 and having a mother, this personally concerns me.
Robert Hilburn and Cheo Hodari Coker report that a question being asked is, “Can a relatively small label afford to lose such major players?” I ask, “Can a relatively small race of people afford to lose their fathers, brothers and sons? Can that relatively small race of people continue to accept misguided commentary devoted to the future of a company as opposed to the future of the community that made said company so profitable?”
The deaths of Shannon Hoon (Blind Melon), Kurt Cobain (Nirvana) and Jonathan Melvoin (Smashing Pumpkins) helped stimulate the public debate about the responsibilities of record companies to their artists and the problem of drug abuse. The death of Tupac should not “stir” us to probe the future of Death Row, but instead reassess the responsibilities of the record company to the artist and the community that supports them both.
The entertainment industry and the “war” on drugs are not that dissimilar, where for every bust, or superstar taken away from us, invariably there will be another to take their place. Tupac was very talented, but there eventually will be another. Our youth are not monogamous in their idolatry and soon enough someone else will be the object of their monetary affection. Death Row was successful before Tupac and Dr. Dre left a plethora of talented proteges behind. Somebody called Snoop Doggy Dogg comes to mind.
Instead of hushed-tone criticism of Tupac’s lifestyle or anonymous quotes by . . . well, anonymous record executives, we could do far worse for ourselves than understanding Tupac’s death as a symptom of a larger malady that’s afflicting our society and getting to the heart of the matter. We must address the real issues. Tupac in his own prophetic style said it best.
“I’ve been trapped since birth, cautious because I’m cursed. And fantasies of my family in the hearse. And they say it’s the white man I should fear, but it’s my own kind doin’ all the killing here.”
And remember what King said: “. . . Its cost for this society will be substantial in financial as well as human terms.” Emphasis on human terms. Emphasis on human terms. Emphasis on human terms.
Credit: Morris W. O’Kelly is a Grammy Awards coordinator for the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences
The Mo’Kelly Report is an entertainment journal with a political slant; published at The Huffington Post and www.eurweb.com. It is meant to inform, infuse and incite meaningful discourse…as well as entertain. For more Mo’Kelly, http://mrmokelly.com. Mr. Mo’Kelly can be reached at email@example.com.