Monthly Archives: June 2011

Album Review: “The Workout” by Stic (aka stic.man)

Discipline. NO excuses. Rhythm and movement. Motivation. Consistency. Execution only. Positivity only. Clean living. Self-affirmation. Affirmation of life.

These are among the themes of the beyond superb new album The Workout by Stic (aka stic.man) of Dead Prez. Living healthy is no easy task in this society, with both external and internal forces (the monkey mind) leading us toward negative addictions, attitudes, relationships, indulgences, negligence, and so on. But a revolution must lead with folks who comprehend how unhealthy society functions upon the mass of people, and who comprehend how the many contradictions and negative outcomes befall people governed by a system that wants to consume and exploit human beings, and get human beings to consume and destroy themselves in order to make a profit.

Thus I think The Workout, despite its primary concern with self-development, may be among the most revolutionary Dead Prez albums yet, because revolution, a radical break from a legacy of violence, death, ignorance, exploitation, anger, greed and fear, must begin with the self. And only oneself can liberate oneself – we ourselves are often our own worst enemies. It takes unyielding self-discipline, contemplation, study, exercise, and serious internal work to overcome the contradictions that we as individuals engage in that, in part, perpetuate the miserable status quo of human existence at large. Thus, to encourage diligent and profound internal work, including on our physical bodies as well as our minds, is to encourage revolutionary work, full stop.

And Stic and friends do a mighty fine job of encouragement, through superb musical hip-hop artistry and lyricism. This album surely works as great workout music, as I have listened to it during many a workout over the past few weeks. The refrain, “who am I? I am the champion!” from “Champion” buzzes through the mind while one sweats in exertion. Stic rhymes, “over my lifetime I’m tryna do a million crunches, a billion pushups and prolly throw a billion punches; it’s not the numbers, it’s all about the drive and hunger, to live strong like gorillas thrive in the jungle” in “Blood Pumpin’.” I feel really driven when hearing this line, driven to push myself hard for the rest of my life and never stop reaching mental and physical peaks and then exceeding them, going from strength to strength as I become stronger, wiser and sharper with time.

In “Back On My Regimen (Swole like Tookie),” Divine RBG says “My everyday struggle got me slacking on my fitness, I hear my inner voice saying get back to bidness, get back in the gym, get back on the bars, I can get it in anywhere, the world is my yard!” I love these bars because brother Divine reminds us that for most of us there’s little excuse to slacking, as the world is our yard, the whole of whatever tools and facilities and environments we have at hand. We must strive not to permit our everyday struggles to overwhelm us, to smother us, burn us out and steal our lives from under us. So we can do calisthenics at home; we can get it in at the park, taking walks, jogs, stretches; whatever is safest, most available, but we have to get it in no matter what and keep it up. I don’t have a gym membership; just shoes, a bunch of kettlebells, my body, and my urban environment, and I make it work, getting it in 3-5 days a week and feeling absolutely great, killing the negativity and stagnation inside me every day with sweat and torque.

I greatly appreciate the pro-sobriety messages laced throughout this piece. General Steele (of Smif-N-Wessun) declares, “Strict code of conduct, respect for my enemies; exercise mentally, physically, spiritually; no guns needed – got a panther’s agility, and I don’t need drugs to enhance my ability” (Warrior Codes). No drugs, no steroids, no human growth hormone, no easy ways out. No intoxicants, no means to blunt reality. All things worth achieving are best and most sustainably achieved by all-natural, straightforward, head-first means. It’s painful that so much of prominent rap music is about the opposite – celebrating drugs, self-destruction, ill-health, domestic violence and promiscuity, etc. the opposite of a clear-headed, simple, positive, healthy life which brings lasting well-being, not instant and fleeting gratification followed by craving and calamity.

There are so many incredible songs on this album. “Yoga Mat” reminds us of the importance of meditation and engaging in practices that help us arrive at mental clarity. Mental clarity is a rarer commodity than rare-earth minerals, rarer even than known Earth-like planets around Sun-like stars. To even seek mental clarity and sincere inner peace, peace with oneself, in this society, is to engage in extremely subversive, anti-consumerist, anti-capitalist activities. The system doesn’t mind meditation, since it doesn’t harm it directly, and meditation won’t speed revolution. But if it were the case that masses of us took up meditation (to regain our minds, assert our willpower and master our destinies) instead of smoking a cigarette, drinking alcohol, or doing other things to get high and lose our minds, the Babylon system could get mighty nervous.

The sistas make an appearance in “Baby Fat,” “one of whom (I think Ife Jie?) spits “I know a beautiful body is what a man loves, but I do it for me, I got my own standards.” While this album doesn’t exactly explode with feminism, it doesn’t push machismo and anti-women crap either. I appreciate how this woman asserts her desire for health and fitness as based on her own standards and aspirations to wellness, as opposed to being predicated on impressing men. She is allowed to define her own destiny and it needn’t be just about pleasing men; it can be about pleasing and fulfilling herself.

I could go on about other goodies on this brilliant album, like “Bruce Lee” (awesome), “Sober Soldier,” “Let it Burn,” “Runner’s High,” and so on. But to wrap up I’ll just say this is a nearly perfect example of positive culture. We need more positive culture! I need it. This is the sort of stuff I respond to deeply. This is the sort of stuff brothas and sistas ought to contemplate and actualize in order to affirm and perpetuate life rather than destroy it. Negative culture generally seeks the opposite of what our righteous brother Stic and company want to tell us. Positive culture encourages us to push the boundaries of human potential and do what we previously thought impossible, toward positive transformation of self and community. The Workout is right on that tip.

For the hardcore straight-edge vegan fitness freaks, for the revolutionaries, for those who seek health and clarity, for all of the above, this album will talk to you. Please support Stic and wise men and women like him, and cop this album ASAP.

Kinda speciesist…

I’ve had trouble updating this blog for a while since I realize I no longer want to discuss just plant-based diets up in here. I’ve come to admit that Afrikan liberation at large – organizing for it, articulating it, propagandizing for it – is of more consequence to me than only advocating that we black folks eat plants.

See, the thing is, as oppressed people, in so many places where we are, we don’t have access to affordable and sound whole foods and produce in the first place. It’s not affordable or accessible to those of us who pull in little income despite busting our asses the hardest, and furthermore live in “food deserts.” Our pro-corporate food systems subsidize cheap empty calories (corn-based processed food-like substances) at the expense of whole fruits and veggies, which are overpriced. So it is not easy to advocate, as one’s sole agenda, a vast black vegan renaissance, when most Afrikans will have a hard time funding it or justifying it at the expense of other concerns in the life of someone of limited means and oversized responsibilities.

I promote a more plant-based lifestyle for Afrikans as a means towards optimal health, the health-consequences of meat- and fast-food- and junk-food-heavy diets being more expensive to the individual health of Afrikan peoples and to the shared ecosystem than would occur if more humans ate more plants primarily and increasingly spared this world of animal husbandry.

But I don’t viscerally care so much what individual Afrikans are eating off the bat, don’t want to question one’s private choices, not outside of the context of recognizing that our inability to even access healthy plant-based lifestyles is due in large part to imperialism, capitalism, patriarchy, white supremacy, neocolonialism, etc. themselves, the first causes of overall black suffering in the contemporary world.

To my current thinking, encouraging healthier lifestyle choices in the Afrikan community must always occur with the naked fact of segregation, exploitation, geographic and economic limitations and imposed ignorance about such choices, and so on, laid bare on the table, so we don’t fall into the trap of just talking about “let’s go vegan and it will all be fine, brothas and sistas!”

I’m not so interested in talking about saving the animals in this context either. In stating this I suppose I’m toying with blatant speciesism, which I’m not supposed to do as an ardent vegan. Make no mistake about it, I’m an ethical vegan, personally. I’m not interested in oppressing non-humans. But I have a whole lot more visceral solidarity with Jamaicans, Haitians or Nigerians than with cows and turkeys and pigs. And I’m not a back to nature man, I’m not one to stand still and be non-violent in the midst of being bitten by mad mosquitos or while suffering super-massive ant-infestations in my apartment (as occurred when I lived in Accra, Ghana). I’m not even a pet owner and never will be. I’m primarily interested in talking about and resolving human suffering by any means, and in particular the suffering of Afrikans.

Comparing slave ships to the animal slaughtering industry may have it’s place, somewhere for some minds. But I’m currently more interested in discussing eating healthy for the self-interested agenda of building a healthier and stronger black race, period. Getting folks more liberated from all these chronic diseases, and using my own experience as validation and evidence, is what suits me more these days. I think discussion of the Afrikan Holocaust, the Ma’afa, is not even deep enough in the Afrikan community worldwide, not in everyday parlance. We need to think deeply about the legacy of that holocaust, and talk loudly about it because it continues in new ways today, before casually introducing notions of animal holocaust into discussion, at least in the sorts of circles I run in. We Afrikans are still being treated, and are treating each other, like animals. Thus I don’t think some non-veg Afrikans are ready to immediately express profound sympathy for non-humans.

I am critical of Afrikan cultures that hold a prestige on meat. But that won’t stop me from working with said Afrikans toward common liberatory goals in the broader areas we can and must collaborate on. I still hint at putting more fruits and veggies in the body than dead flesh, since that’s my practice, I’m always asked about it by Afrikans, and most people intuitively know it’s healthier to eat more fruits and vegetables. But it’s not a make or break issue for me interpersonally.

So I just had to share that and update the blog. My pro-human speciesism is exposed. The direction of this blog, while still hip to discussions around plant-based diets and radical ecological justice struggles, will only entertain such struggles in full acknowledgment of the fact that capitalism/imperialism/patriarchy/white supremacy are the problems, to be resolved not by one-issue campaigns built on concepts hard to relate to intimately for all but the most privileged and aloof, but by humanistic revolutionary struggle to more fully meet human needs and enable human freedom for oppressed, dispossessed peoples, led by indigenous peoples, peoples of the third world, Afrikans. As sound, well-informed minds vying for healthier communities introduce their efforts into the revolutionary mix and see results, then in the course of a blatantly human struggle – this black struggle, land justice, sustainability and the needless waste of life and resources in current regimes of consumption can be overturned as well.

But for me it has to be about black liberation in total. Humans. To be fully human.

Discuss.