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This was the early seventies. Black power had leavened the Civil Rights movement, taken it higher.

Back to Africa, militantly forward. A soundtrack of how Negroes became Black

 

 

CDs by the O'JAYS

Ship Ahoy / The Ultimate O'JAYS / The Essential O'Jays / Collectors' Items / Back Stabbers / Family Reunion

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O'JAYS  "For The Love Of Money"

Breath of Life Music Commentary by Mtume ya Salaam & Kalamu ya Salaam

 

We opened the time capsule and found a prophecy exactly mapping our contemporary plight. The document had been recorded in 1973, over thirty years later it was sounding fresh. And dire, but insistent, throbbing with life and urgency. We got to deal with this. This: the way we are, the way we living. Our love of money; our disdain for each other. The capitalism that brought us here as currency. The capitalism we keep current within our selves. Ubiquitous as the air we breathe.

What was in the water back then that yesterday’s sounds could be so right on today?

Seven. Eight. Nine minute grooves. Who did they expect to listen that long to a pop tune? What radio station would play an anthem denouncing “a love of money”? And where did they get those funky-ass bass lines?

From the creaking of the slave ship setting sail on the high seas to the discordant jangle of selling ourselves as well as selling out each other for mean green, Ship Ahoy is a monumental achievement of popular music. When it dropped, Ship Ahoy provided an incisive response to Marvin’s question about What’s Going On?, which Mr. Gaye had asked a few years earlier.

What distinguishes this O’Jay’s recording is that it was not received as protest music to be listened to occasionally but instead was top of the charts hit music. We bumped it in our cars criss-crossing urban avenues, crowded on nightclub dance floors, and especially through the radio airwaves. All of our stations were encouraging us to think about what we would do for money, about how we had been done for money.

Take a deep breath. Think about it.

The music made us think about it. About our lives. How we were living. How we were treating each other. What government and business was doing. But especially what we were doing to ourselves. To each other.

The cover art. The O’Jays in the hole of a slave ship. A portrait on the inside: a trio of black entertainers standing by the sea. No, not entertainers. Not flashily dressed. Standing there in silhouette looking to the distant horizon. Their heads proudly crowned by well shaped afros. What an image. What a story. Enslaved and imported. Now emancipated and still bedeviled, contemplating their condition.

There is something warrior resolute in their stare on the front cover. Something seeking wisdom in their inside cover seaside contemplation. Man, was this the O’Jays? Yes and no.

Yes, this was that famous male trio whose close harmonies, tight choreography and stirring song echoed inner city preoccupations with securing respite from daily troubles through the ecstasy and pleasure of love. Not noted particularly as political. But then here was Ship Ahoy. And all of a sudden, or so it may seem that it was sudden, the streets became avenues of social awareness.

This was the early seventies. Black power had leavened the Civil Rights movement, taken it higher. Back to Africa, militantly forward. A soundtrack of how Negroes became Black. And beautiful. And embraced Africa. And became conscious. And self critical. Concerned not just with status quo politics but concerned too with the inner state of our dis-union. How the love of money was killing us, leading us to self destruct. Concerned also about the outer us, the environment. What was being done to the air.

This was not just blind race pride. The O’Jays (Eddie Levert, Walter Williams and Eric Grant) were serious as cancer. Deadly as a heart attack. “Don’t Call Me Brother” unless you really mean it, really were going to walk the walk and not just mouth the talk. Who else would put a damn near ten-minute-long self-critical jeremiad on a pop record and expect it to sell in the stores and get airplay?

What we were witnessing was not just entertainers becoming conscious, but producers kicking out the jams. The production team of Gamble and Huff were offering Black Power militancy that trumped Motown’s Civil Rights gradualism. No more being inoffensive. Time to tell it like it is. No more muzzling the anger. Time to tell the truth.

Gamble and Huff were both politically conscious and musically savvy in ways Gordy could not match. They used strings and things, state of the art production techniques, but there was also deep grit in their grooves. Stomping, sweating, shouting Black shit that was a bit too strong for supper clubs. This was not ghetto gone Las Vegas, but rather the street loud and proud, proclaiming where we is is where it’s at!

Ship Ahoy may not have been crossover material but it sure was a message the masses of us wanted to hear, deeply wanted to say. Out loud. And the O’Jays did it and it was just what the masses wanted. Needed. And eagerly embraced.

The musical level of achievement is awesome. Mtume, listen to how they use vibes on “Don’t Call Me Brother.” Listen to how they not just sing, they also preach. Eddie Levert doing the griot, running down how his automobile was vandalized and knowing that it was his so-called brother that did it.  Notice how it uses the polyrhythm of the gospel-influenced three/four time pushed up against the heavy, R&B four/four backbeat. Socially, musically, this is an inspired song.

What match do we have for the serious contemplation of “Ship Ahoy”? Is there any contemporary (circa the first decade of 2000) that compares to “Ship Ahoy” musically or politically? Heavy drums. Mournful strings. Punching horns. And those steel strong male voices cutting through it all.

I love the merry upbeat instrumentation on the song of caution, “This Air I Breathe.” And, of course, the bass on “For the Love of Money” has been sampled so many times it has its own life.

The musical inventiveness, the soulful vocals, the political forwardness; what a potent mix this all is.

But I don’t have to offer anymore attempts at explanation, I’m sure you already dig and understand these sounds. This music which reflected a larger social context. A music that three decades later is more on point than when it was first created. How wise the eye that addresses the future using language of its time—language understood when it was created—and yet, somehow is also language totally appreciated years and years later. Two generations on, the more things change . . . why are things still the same?
—Kalamu ya Salaam

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The love of money         

When I think about the O’Jays, and in particular, about the O’Jays’ music from this time period, I think about how authoritative they are. They have such a powerful, commanding tone. They were talking about serious subjects in serious ways and yet, they were keeping it listenable. I know and like all of these songs.

As Kalamu says, it is hard to believe that songs with such depth, character and structural complexity were right there front-and-center in the world of popular music. Kalamu’s right too, that music like this just isn’t being made anymore. Actually, I’m not sure that’s true and I don’t think that was really Kalamu’s point. I think his real point was that music like the O’Jays’ isn’t at the forefront of popular music. There are artists we can point to who are making popular music that has this same level of artistry and seriousness about it, but those artists aren’t selling millions and aren’t well known.

Thinking in particular about the most popular song from Ship Ahoy, "For The Love Of Money," I think about the Biblical verse (Timothy 6:10 for those keeping track at home) that says, "Money is the root of all evil." I was always confused by that because I could think of all sorts of evil things that didn’t have much to do with money. But the actual verse is - and note that the O’Jays got it right - "The love of money is the root of all evil." Now we’re on to something. And so were the O’Jays. If anything, I think their words make more sense in our current times of SUVs and flashy cellphones and $300 bottles of liquor than they probably did back when they were recorded.

—Mtume ya Salaam

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The writers got it right         

I’m a writer. When it comes to popular music, unfortunately, almost all of the attention goes to the performer and sometimes the producer but what about the writer. What about the person(s) who actually thought it through and figured a way to hook it up. So for the record: Ship Ahoy is by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff; "This Air I Breathe" is by Kenny Gamble and Bunny Sigler; "For The Love Of Money" is by Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff and A. Jackson; and "Don’t Call Me Brother" is by Kenny Gamble and Bunny Sigler. Mad props and much respect.

—Kalamu ya Salaam

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For The Love Of Money

 

By Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff

 

Money money money money, MONEY

Money money money money, MONEY

Money money money money, MONEY

Money money money money, MONEY

Money money money money, MONEY

Money money money money, MONEY

 

Some people got to have it

Hey, Hey, Hey - some people really need it

 

Hey, listen to me, y'all do thangs, do thangs, do thangs - bad thangs with it

Well, you wanna do thangs, do thangs, do thangs - good thangs with it - yeah

 

Un Huh, talkin' bout cash money, money

 

Talkin' bout cash money - dollar bills y'all - come on, now

 

Yeah, yeah

Yeah, yeah

 

For the love of money

People will steal from their mother

 

For the love of money

People will rob their own brother

 

For the love of money

People can't even walk the streets

Because they'll never know who in the world they're gonna meet

For that mean, oh mean, mean green

 

Almighty Dollar!

 

Cash Money

 

For the love of money

People will lie, rob, they will cheat

 

For the love of money

People don't care who they hurt or beat

 

For the love of money

A woman will sell her precious body

 

For a small piece of paper it carries a lot of weight

Oh, that mean, mean, mean, mean, mean green

 

Almighty Dollar!

 

Talkin' bout, talkin' bout - cash

 

I know that money is the root of all evil

Do funny things to some people

 

Give me a nickel, brother can you spare a dime

Money can drive some people out of their minds

 

For the love of money

No good, no good, no good

 

For the love of money

Don't sell ya soul for the money - no, no

 

For the love of money

Lay down, lay down - women will

 

Money is the root of all evil

Do funny things to some people

 

Give me a nickel, brother can you spare a dime

Money can drive some people out of their minds

 

For the love of money

Got to have it - I really need it

 

For the love of money

Give it up, give it up, give it up - yeah

 

For the love of money

Got to have it - some people really need it

 

For the love of money

Give me, give me, give me - cash money

 

For the love of money

I need - I need

 

For the love of money

Keep me, keep me, keep me - happy

 

For the love of money

For the love of money

How many days have I heard ya say

 

For the love of money

Don't let it, don't let it - don't let money rule ya

 

For the love of money

How many days have I heard ya say

 

For the love of money

Don't let it, don't let it - don't let it, don't let money fool you, no

 

For the love of money

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

 

For the love of money

Got to have it - I really need it

 

Don't do it - don't do it

 

Brother - save ya soul - save ya soul - don't sell it

For that mean, mean, mean, mean green

 

People, don't let money, don't let money change you

 

Almighty Dollar!

 

I keep ah tellin' you

People, don't let money, don't let money change you

 

Almighty Dollar!

 

Um, 'cause it'll keep on changing - yeah- changing up your mind

 

It'll keep on - it'll keep on - changing - yeah - changing up your mind

 

I'm tellin' y'all

People, don't let money, don't let money change you

 

Almighty Dollar!

 

I keep ah tellin' y'all

People, don't let money, don't let money change you

 

Almighty Dollar!

 

Yeah - 'cause it'll keep on changing - yeah - changing up your mind

 

It'll keep on changing - yeah - changing up your mind

 

I'm tellin' y'all

People, don't let money, don't let money change you

 

Almighty Dollar!

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AALBC.com's 25 Best Selling Books


 

Fiction

#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
#2 - Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree
#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
#4 - Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper
#5 - Stackin' Paper 2 Genesis' Payback by Joy King
#6 - Thug Lovin' (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark
#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 - Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 - Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 - Purple Panties: An Eroticanoir.com Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 - The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter

Non-fiction

#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
#2 - Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans
#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
#5 - Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant
#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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Faces At The Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism

By Derrick Bell

In nine grim metaphorical sketches, Bell, the black former Harvard law professor who made headlines recently for his one-man protest against the school's hiring policies, hammers home his controversial theme that white racism is a permanent, indestructible component of our society. Bell's fantasies are often dire and apocalyptic: a new Atlantis rises from the ocean depths, sparking a mass emigration of blacks; white resistance to affirmative action softens following an explosion that kills Harvard's president and all of the school's black professors; intergalactic space invaders promise the U.S. President that they will clean up the environment and deliver tons of gold, but in exchange, the bartering aliens take all African Americans back to their planet. Other pieces deal with black-white romance, a taxi ride through Harlem and job discrimination. Civil rights lawyer Geneva Crenshaw, the heroine of Bell's And We Are Not Saved (1987), is back in some of these ominous allegories, which speak from the depths of anger and despair. Bell now teaches at New York University Law School.—Publishers Weekly /  Derrick Bell   Dies at 80

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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.

As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.

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Salvage the Bones

A Novel by Jesmyn Ward

On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family that’s about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrina’s inexorable winds is the voice of Ward’s narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her family’s raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brother’s “blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt.” Her father’s hands “are like gravel,” while her own hand “slides through his grip like a wet fish,” and a handsome boy’s “muscles jabbered like chickens.” Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isn’t usually just metaphor for metaphor’s sake. She conveys something fundamental about Esch’s fluid state of mind: her figurative sense of the world in which all things correspond and connect. She and her brothers live in a ramshackle house steeped in grief since their mother died giving birth to her last child. . . . What remains, what’s salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion.—WashingtonPost

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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update 3 April 2012

 

 

 

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