Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Listen To My Voice! with Ben Kenney of Incubus

Ben Kenney is the bassist for uber-cool SoCal rock band Incubus, and was formerly the guitarist for my all-time favorite band, The Roots. He's performing Saturday night at The Black Box Cabaret, along with Dirty Heads and The Silent Movie. Doors open at 8:30 p.m., show starts at 9 p.m.
Kenney talked about his music, including his latest album, “Comfort and Distance,” as well as sharing some points on his time with the Roots and Incubus. He's a pretty cool cat and it was nice of him to talk to me while trying to eat lunch on the side of the road from heaven knows where. Check out the show Saturday if you can.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

“Paint It Gold” Season Finale!

So Atmosphere's new album is out. They've been promoting it with a web series that is pretty funny and long. Here's the final ep. Cop that disc, which is in stores today (I, unfortunately have to wait until payday to get it, but that's how it goes).

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Monday, April 21, 2008

Cali Nation Live at Doc's

My boys Cali Nation doing “Salinas” live at Doc Rickett's Lab. Big up to Andy and the crew. Check out for more video from the show.
Video courtesy of The Red Monkey.

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Friday, April 18, 2008

An Earth Day Rap

A simple rap poem for Earth Day, which is Tuesday. Enjoy.

With so much drama in the world today/
It seems we all need to celebrate earth day/
I know it sounds corny in so many ways/
But have you taken time to hug Mother Earth today?

I'm not trying to preach or teach a class/
I'm not trying to say that these days are our last/
I'm just trying to say we need to think real fast/
Pretty soon it'll be $20 for a gallon of gas/

Got to school yourself on carbon emissions /
Holes in the ozone and unhealthy conditions/
Energy consumption vs. ecological systems/
Got to save the trees, can't continue to diss 'em/

If you have the means ride a bike to school/
Walk to the store or set up a car pool/
Recycle everything, that would be real cool/
Might save you some money in the long run too

There's things you can do at home on the low/
Plant your own garden, set up a compost/
Buy local produce from the Central Coast/
The Salad Bowl of the world has plenty to host

And if you're clocking dough you can go real big/
Invest in a gas-saving car Hybrid/
Solar panels can help you save some large ends/
Do it for the earth, not because it's a trend

Because we all owe it to the next generation/
Look at all the damage that the kids are facing/
There's only one earth with no replacement/
Help your grandchildren by making a statement

And before I go, One more thing to say/
Don't wait for tomorrow because the time is today/
Please do your part and find a new way/
I know it sounds corny, but everyday is Earth Day

Peace and I'm out.

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Snoop's Coming to Monterey!

The Dogg is coming to rock the Peninsula, as in Snoop D-O-Double-G.
Headlining the second annual Monterey Music Summit, West Coast rap legend Snoop Dogg will perform Saturday night with returning act Ozomatli, as part of the renewed, revitalized and rearranged pop music festival.
Last year's inaugural event in October brought some 8,000 to 9,000 music fans and more than 30 acts to the two-day event helmed by promoter Joe Fletcher. This year, it's a three-day affair, to be held at Laguna Seca Recreation Area, May 30-June 1. Visit for info.
Three-day passes are $169, with limited one-day passes available the day of each show.
The change in date and venue (the first summit was held at the Monterey Fairgrounds) was made to establish the summit as a late spring event, with the full use of Laguna Seca facilities a part of the draw for out-of-town festival goers.
From camping facilities to bike and hiking trails, Fletcher envisions the three-day festival as a destination event for contemporary pop music lovers.
“We were really excited to launch the first Monterey Music Summit, but we new from the beginning it was going to be a growing process,” said Fletcher. “For the type of event we wanted, we needed camping. And we wanted to move into a time of year that was a little warmer. It left us a little shorter in the time we can promote, but we knew we could establish it in the time of year that was warm.”
The biggest name on the bill so far is Snoop Dogg, the West Coast rap star who has maintained a significant level of popularity more than 15 years after making his debut with legendary rap producer Dr. Dre.
“It's kind of funny to watch his whole career. There are very few people you can point to and say ‘This guy's been at the top of his game for a long time,’ ” said Fletcher.
The decision to bring in Snoop on a bill featuring mostly rock and jam bands wasn't meant to cash in on his marquee value.
“We didn't want to bring a big name just to have hip-hop,” he said. ‘We wanted someone to cross the boundaries that's more than a hit maker.”
While Snoop's image is clearly classified as gangsta, due to his lyrics and numerous run-ins with the law, Fletcher wasn't worried about the problem of drawing a rowdy audience. Fletcher called Snoop “a good friend” and even gave a surprise comparison.
“He's just always a great guy to work with and hysterically funny. He's almost like a Bill Cosby,” said Fletcher. “His career has morphed from street thug to more romantic guy to now his show on the E! Network, where he's this family guy.”
Aside from Snoop Dogg and Ozomatli on Saturday, name for the Friday night lineup are electronic music mavens Sound Tribe Sector 9 and The Crystal Method. Sunday's top acts are rock band Coheed and Cambria. Another name Sunday act is expected to be announced in the coming weeks.
New acts for the summit this year include longtime punk/funk outfit Fishbone, California rock band Slightly Stoopid, actress/rocker Juliette Lewis and The Licks, veteran dance music impresario Dieselboy with MC Messinian, pop singer Paula Cole, Melvin Seals and JGB (Jerry Garcia Band) and former Saturday Night Live band leader G.E. Smith's band, Moonalice.
Other new acts include Albino! Heavy Heavy Afro Beat, Shelby Lynn, Raine Maida, Super Drag, Sara Melson, Just Jinjer, and Tea Leaf Green, who were scheduled to appear last year but didn't make the trip.
Returning acts include West Indian Girl, New Monsoon, Hot Buttered Rum and Tea Leaf Green, who were scheduled to appear last year but didn't make the trip.
An appearance by Tibetan Monks, presenting “Mystical Arts of Tibet,” will take place in the new tent stage, along with burlesque with The Filthy Gorgeous Burlesque.
Fletcher said he aimed to bring a variety of acts to the show that would draw a crowd and bring a positive message to the summit.
Like last year's event, this year is billed as carbon neutral. Fletcher and his crew plan on planting trees to offset the carbon emissions caused by the show's energy consumption and transportation.
He is joining with local agencies, from Monterey-Salinas Transit and the Offset Project, to green-minded companies like Pure Water, which will provide free purified water to concert goers.
“We really wanted to make sure we kept the same environmental theme. We're spending a lot of time and energy. . . to really create a festival that's as sustainable as possible,” he said.
With a goal of providing a dynamic lineup of music, keeping things green and propping up the region as a pop-music stop, Fletcher again has high hopes for the summit. At the same time, he's downplaying the need to sell out early on in favor of giving concert goers an enjoyable experience.
“We want people to be able to come, camp, have plenty of elbow room and have as good and comfortable an experience as possible. And we don't need to sell 30,000 tickets to make this work,” he said. “By design, we want this to be a little smaller, a little easier to deal with, and for people to feel like this is their festival.”

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Monday, April 14, 2008

Live in Concert: Bret Michaels in Salinas

Drunk guys and girls stumbling all over the place, nearly knocking down large video screens. Shaved-head cholos working as security. Police roaming every square inch yet somehow managing to miss violent altercations.
It all added up to one thing: A rock concert in Oldtown Salinas.
Friday night's Bret Michaels show at the Fox Theater in Salinas was an entertaining event as much for the people watching as for the show itself. Michaels hit the stage around 10 p.m., introduced by "Rock of Love" castmates Heather and Destiney and his bodyguard/main camarade Big John. It was big fun all around.
When Big John announced Michaels to the stage, the opening strains to GNR's "Welcome to the Jungle" blasted through the speakers. Then nothing, as the song played out in its entireity. While it was a head scratcher as to why they played a GNR song to intro as opposed to, say, a Poison song, it proved oddly appropriate, as Michaels played as many cover songs as he did his own material.
Michaels hit the stage with his band rocking "Talk Dirty to Me" and the sparse crowd ate it up. He recieved a hero's welcome as he ripped through his opening number, drawing a thick crowd of older women stationed in the front to fight for his attention and showing their admiration.
That pack of drunken hyenas didn't seem to let anyone else, particularly females, draw too close to Michaels. I saw at least a couple of girls escape from the throbbing pit sweaty and frustrated. It was pretty funny to watch.
Michaels set list included "Sweet HomeAlabama" and "Your Momma Don't Dance," classic rock standards that fit right in with Michaels delightfully tacky steez. I remember him playing at least one song from his solo catalogue, mixed in with Poison ballads "Something To Believe In" and the obligatory "Every Rose Has It's Thorn."
In between songs, Michaels chatted up the crowd, switched guitars a few times, smiled, mooked, and ran through the checklist of a professional rock n roll bad ass. I can't front, for all of his otherworldly looks and hammy showmanship, Michaels is a likeable, seeming approachable cat. A true school beer at the bar good fella.
He closed it out with the encore "Nothing But A Good Time," the ultimate beer-selling anthem. Michaels has re-branded himself for a new generation through the lowest of common denominators, reality television, but he's done it on his terms and you can't but root for the guy. His solo show wasn't the grand spectacle I wanted (I though the Poison show last year at the Sports Complex was a better display of his star talent), but dude can rock the house in a good way.
And if nothing else, it was fun to watch my hometown gente act a damn fool without anyone getting seriously hurt. Thanks for that, Bret.

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Friday, April 11, 2008

Friend Remembers Aziz

The voice on the phone quivered with the grief of a young man who has endured a senseless tragedy. Each sentence ending with a mournful deep breath.

Eric Muñoz, aka Ghambit, struggled to find the right words in remembrance of his friend Aziz James, aka The Almighty Aziz. James was killed early Saturday morning by Santa Clara police, after allegedly losing control at a party.

Aziz, 24, grew up in the Watsonville and Aptos area and was a fixture on the Santa Cruz and Central Coast hip-hop scene. A member of the group Warlordz as well as a solo artist, he performed regularly at The Catalyst in downtown Santa Cruz, both as an opening act for national artists and during local talent showcases.

According to an article in the San Jose Mercury News, police and friends say Aziz stabbed a police dog multiple times after stabbing a friend at the party. He had jumped through a glass plate window, run to a nearby house, jumped through another window and stabbed another friend who was reportedly trying to calm him down.

Aziz had no known criminal record in California, and his brother said he has no known history of mental illness. It's unclear if he had taken drugs, on purpose or accident, but friends say he wasn't known for abusing substances. Several said they wondered whether someone slipped him something in a drink or into a marijuana joint.

A few days after the incident, Munoz, who was also quoted in the Merc story, could only think about his friend.

“He was a talented artist and he needs to be recognized for what he is,” said Munoz. “He was like a brother of mine. He's really going to be missed.”

In the days following the incident, emotional messages from friends have been popping up on bulletins. Some expressing their sorrow. Others showing anger toward the police officers involved in the shooting.

All expressed shock and disbelief for the loss of Aziz.

“We don't have the right words right now to properly describe this tragedy,” read one post from Ineffable Records, the recording and promotional crew Aziz belong to. “As some of you know, Aziz James aka Almighty Aziz, has passed on. R.I.P. To our dear friend, brother & incredibly talented artist Aziz! We love & will forever miss you!”

Another, posted by Ineffable Records Promotions Coordinator, revealed the pain that most who knew him are experiencing.

“I thought I would be able to sleep last night after I heard the news about my (our) homie but nope, I'm hurting that I lost a true Homie this way. I just don't understand. If you knew Aziz then you're probably feeling the same as a lot of us — how could this happen? Is this true? I'm (at) a loss. We all are. I will never forget you Aziz and I know you will be peepin' over all of us as the true homie you are.”

Munoz, 24, said he grew up with Aziz. They made music together. They hung out together. Munoz was with Aziz before he died.

“I don't want to get into what happened that night,” he said, following it up with a long, deep sigh that further revealed the tragedy.

Before getting off the phone, Munoz wanted the public to know Ineffable Records is planning a benefit concert May 3 at The Catalyst in Santa Cruz. No details were available yet on who might perform.

It's a safe bet that the Ineffable Records crew, which consists of Ghambit, Sincere, The Skaflaws, and Rise of the Revolution among others, will be on hand.

To listen to Aziz's music, visit

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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

RIP Almighty Aziz

News of the death of Aziz Howard Raqmond James, aka Almighty Aziz, is slowly starting to surface. James was shot to death early Saturday morning by Santa Clara Police.

San Jose Mercury News has posted a breaking news story on its web site. You can view it here.

Further details can be found on a forum about the story. Although there is no confirmation that people posting on the forum are reliable sources, the discussion has been pretty intense. You can view that here.

Aziz was a member of the Ineffable Records camp, as well as a part of the group Warlordz. He was a solo artist from Santa Cruz. All three have separate myspace pages you can view. Aziz's page was at

Bless the dead. Respect to the family and friends of the departed.

Respect also to the officers involved in the unfortunate tragedy. No one wins in a situation like this.

La Paz

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Monday, April 07, 2008

Jay Electronica Live in NYC

Taken from Just Blaze TV on YouTube. For those of y'all that don't know, Jay is that dude. He has a few mixtapes out there, namely "Style Wars" and his "Eternal Sunshine" series. You can find them out there somewhere on the internets.

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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

For those who don't understand the sacrifices of undocumented citizens

I swiped this from the LA This is what's real in the streets, folks.

Divided by death and the Mexican border

Illegal immigrant families are torn apart when someone dies. Survivors are afraid to follow a loved one home for burial.

By Anna Gorman, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
April 2, 2008

Alberta Trujillo felt the baby coming. She woke her fiance, Margarito Garcia, and told him they needed to get to a hospital.

Neither had a car or a driver's license. So they bundled up and started walking to East Los Angeles Doctors Hospital a block away.

Trujillo had to stop across the street from the emergency room as Garcia ran to get help. He returned with a wheelchair and an attendant, and the couple headed into the hospital.

They knew they were having a girl and had already chosen a name: Nicole.

But now the baby's heartbeat was dropping, so as soon as the doctor arrived, Trujillo started pushing.

"I was worried," Garcia said. "I didn't know what was going to happen."

Nicole was born at 4:22 a.m on Jan. 25. But she wasn't breathing, and her heart had stopped. Doctors were unable to save her.

Garcia was holding Trujillo's hand a few minutes later, trying to comfort her, when she started throwing up blood.

"Don't let what happened to our baby happen to me," Trujillo begged, crying.

The doctor took Trujillo into surgery to try to stop the bleeding. But by 1 p.m., she was dead.

"I wanted to die too," Garcia said.

His troubles were not over. As he mourned the deaths of his fiancee and daughter, Garcia soon found that his decision to sneak across the border four years earlier was about to backfire.

At a time when most families come together to grieve, families like Trujillo's are separated -- by their initial decision to illegally cross the border, by their desire to bury relatives back home, and by their fear of never being able to return if they travel to Mexico.

The Mexican Consulate in Los Angeles pays for an immigrant's final journey home if the family is unable to do so. In the last four years, the consulate has shipped more than 1,000 bodies to Mexico for burial. Consul General Juan Marcos Gutiérrez-González said the situation for undocumented relatives who cannot travel with the bodies "is the worst of the worst."

"It is the most direct experience of human suffering," he said.

But Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, said that is the price illegal immigrants pay for breaking the law.

"We have borders and we have immigration laws," he said. "People who choose to jump the line have to deal with the consequences of that."

Garcia wanted to bury Trujillo and their baby in Los Angeles. Trujillo's family -- both in the U.S. and Mexico -- wanted her to be buried in the town where she was born and where her parents still lived. Three of her children from a previous marriage also lived in Mexico.

"My sister always fought to have a better life here," said Elizabeth Trujillo, who lives in Los Angeles. "But we are Mexicans and we want to return to where we were born."

Alberta Trujillo left her village of Pericotepec when she was 11, quitting school to go with her older sister to Mexico City. She wed as a teenager and had four children. Her marriage was strained for many years and ended badly, her family said.

In 1999, Trujillo decided to head north, leaving her children behind and crossing illegally into the U.S. She lived in East Los Angeles, supporting herself by cooking in a lunch truck and by selling beauty products and Tupperware. Trujillo sent money home to her family to buy some land and build a home just outside Mexico City. Trujillo returned in 2001 to see her children and her home and to finalize her divorce. Her eldest son, Miguel Ramos, came to live with her. She talked of building a second story on the house and opening a small store nearby.

But after four years, Trujillo decided to go back to the U.S. to earn more money. She wanted to bring her children, but only her two daughters made the journey with her. One returned to Mexico not long after.

Ramos, now 22 and still in Mexico, supported his mother's decision to leave, even when she missed his graduation from college and even when she missed the birth of his first child.

"More than anything, I wanted her to be happy more than I wanted her to be with me," he said.

On Christmas Eve 2006 in Los Angeles, Trujillo met Garcia, who was working in construction and living with friends. She was 37 and he was 26, and they started dating despite the age difference. On Valentine's Day, he told her he was in love with her. He didn't have much to offer, but he promised to take care of her.

"I wanted her to have a life of kings and queens," Garcia said.

For the first time in many years, her siblings said, Trujillo seemed happy. Garcia, who had lost both his parents, also hoped for a new beginning. They moved in together and Trujillo learned she was pregnant in the spring.

"We were expecting this baby with such excitement," Garcia said.

The coroner determined that Trujillo died when amniotic fluid got into her bloodstream. Her baby died after an abruption of the placenta caused her to lose oxygen and blood supply. Emergency Medi-Cal paid for their time in the hospital.

Each night, family and friends gathered for a rosary beneath a white tent in the driveway of the East Los Angeles home where Garcia and Trujillo had lived. They placed candles and bouquets around a framed photo of Trujillo and a printout of the baby's ultrasound. A banner on one of the wreaths said in glittery letters "Descanse en paz" -- Rest in peace.

They prayed. They sang. And as they ate tamales and drank hot chocolate, they told stories of Trujillo. Inside the house, Nicole's bassinet sat untouched, carefully made up with Winnie the Pooh bedding and filled with diapers, baby powder, woven booties and baby clothes still bearing the tags.

Garcia and four of Trujillo's siblings in the U.S. are undocumented. Returning to Mexico with the body would mean a costly and dangerous journey back across the border to their jobs and U.S.-born children. They decided that the bodies of Trujillo and her baby should be shipped to Mexico and, reluctantly, that they would stay behind.

"Here she lived, here she died," said her brother Fernando Trujillo. "But there, people are waiting for her too."

Garcia sought help at the Mexican Consulate, which agreed to pay for the expenses and referred him to a local funeral home.

One evening, Garcia went to the funeral home to deliver clothes for Trujillo and the baby. He reached into a plastic gift bag and pulled out Nicole's clothes one item at a time: a yellow shirt, a pair of socks and a sleeper.

"This is, I don't know, a little hat?" Garcia said, holding it tightly.

The viewing and Mass took place on a Thursday night. At the front of the chapel, Nicole lay cradled in her mother's arms in a plain, black casket. Trujillo wore a white button-down shirt beneath a black suit. Her lips were painted pink and her hair was pulled back.

Standing before a mural of Jesus above the clouds, a priest sprinkled water on Nicole's head and baptized her into the Roman Catholic faith. Then he called Garcia up to the casket.

It was the first time he had seen his fiancee and child since they had died. Garcia made the sign of the cross and quickly returned to his seat, trying to hold back tears. At the mortuary the next morning, Garcia held his baby in his arms and looked at her pale face. "I didn't want this to happen to you, precious," he whispered as he kissed her forehead. "Sleep, my baby. I love you very much, my love."

Then he walked over to the casket. He lightly touched Trujillo's cheek and adjusted her beaded necklace.

"One day we will be together," he said, his voice quivering. "I am now married to you. You are the love of my life."

In Cholula, Mexico, Trujillo's sister Felicitas and brother Artemio went to a funeral home to pick out a casket. The family was using donations to buy a new coffin to replace the plywood one donated by the Mexican Consulate.

"Of the pine, which is the cheapest?" Artemio asked one of the mortuary employees.

"That one, 4,800 pesos" -- about $450, the man responded. "That's very simple. . . . This one is pretty. How much is it?"

"6,000 pesos," he said.

Felicitas put her hand on top of the casket, which had a relief of a sorrowful Virgin Mary. Artemio took a photo of the casket on his cellphone and sent it to siblings in Los Angeles who would help pay for it.

The bodies traveled on a cargo flight from Los Angeles to Mexico City. Workers from the Cholula funeral home retrieved the casket, drove it to the mortuary and unloaded it from the hearse.

As the men transferred the body into the new wood casket, they handed the dead child to her aunt. Felicitas Trujillo held the baby briefly, saying only, "chiquita" -- little one. Then she held her sister's hand before turning away.

Felicitas said that she knew Garcia wanted her sister to be buried in the U.S., but that this was where she belonged.

"I thank him for all the time he made my sister happy," she said. "But here is all the family. . . . Here there are other traditions that they don't do there."

In Pericotepec, a pueblo of 700 residents, Trujillo's parents had been waiting more than two weeks for their daughter to return. When the hearse from Cholula pulled up just before 6 p.m., they stood among two lines of relatives holding candles and flowers.

"Applause!" one woman shouted, prompting the others to clap and yell, "Alberta!" Under white and black balloons and ribbons, a large sign read, "Welcome the Deceased Alberta Trujillo Hernandez."

The sad homecoming underscored the difference between how illegal immigrants are viewed in Mexico and in the U.S. In Mexico, they are often seen as heroes who worked hard and make tremendous sacrifices to support their families.

Trujillo's three eldest children helped guide her casket onto a table. Anabel Ramos, 21, arranged flowers around the edge of the table. Josue, 17, put his head down on the casket. Miguel Ramos looked down at his mother's face and took a deep breath.

They arranged white roses and gardenias inside the casket, along with a thorny rose stem so Trujillo could ward off enemies on her way to heaven. They also included bottles of water and milk for Nicole.

Trujillo's parents said they didn't understand why she went north. What's more important than being close to family? Even after she met Garcia, she could have come home with him, they said.

"She would have been very poor, but she would have been close to us," said her mother, Delfina Hernandez, 66. "And I could have seen her one more time alive."

Her father, Eduardo Trujillo, 70, said he did what he could to make his children happy in Mexico so they wouldn't want to travel to the U.S. Now, with the first death among his 12 children, Trujillo said he wanted them to return home.

"We would like all of our children here, in their land, in their country, Mexico," he said. "But they decide, not me."

Throughout the night, neighbors and friends came to the house. Every few hours, someone led the crowd in prayer in front of the casket. Women cooked and washed dishes under a large mesquite tree. Men huddled around a fire, drinking arroz con leche. Pigs and roosters roamed nearby.

At one point, some of Trujillo's relatives gathered in a room in the house to watch a DVD of photos from the U.S. There were pictures of Trujillo and her siblings, barbecuing and playing with children.

Trujillo's brother noticed an unfamiliar man and asked if that was Garcia.

"Margarito?" said Trujillo's son, Miguel. "I don't know. I never met him."

On the day of the burial, two young girls sprinkled flower petals as they led the procession down the main road of town toward the cemetery. Dozens of mourners, holding incense, candles and flowers, walked alongside men carrying the casket. As they walked past the elementary school and houses, the church bells chimed and a warm breeze blew dust through the crowd. Mariachis -- dressed in sharp suits and red bow ties -- sang songs of love and loss.

Metal crosses, dried flowers and handwritten headstones dotted the small cemetery.

Few words were spoken as friends and relatives kissed Trujillo's casket and prayed aloud. Trujillo's mother sat down on the dirt and covered her face in tissues. Relatives rushed to offer her water and fan her with hats.

"I ask you, God, care for her soul," she cried.

The gravediggers used thick ropes to lower the coffin deep into the ground.

"Little by little," Trujillo's father said, guiding them. "Slowly, muchachos. There."

Women rushed to arrange bouquets of lilies, roses and gardenias. Everyone held hands and said a final prayer. Trujillo's three children were the last to leave.

Miguel Ramos leaned against a tree with his fists clenched. He wished everyone could be together during this time of mourning, but he has grown used to the fact that his family is separated by the border.

"In moments when we need support, we are united," he said. "It doesn't matter if we are here or there."

Life in the Shadows is one in a series of occasional articles.

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