Tag Archives: Black history


The Love of Hip Hop With DJ Dummy

DJ Dummy

DJ Dummy with Common (Left), Pharrell (Middle).

Black history month is a celebration of Black culture for centuries and one of the biggest links to Black culture is Hip Hop. Hip Hop has given artists the ability to express themselves or use Hip Hop as a commentary on social issues in the form of art. If Hip Hop is a canvas, DJ’s are like brushes that blend the colors of sound and voice to create beautiful portraits. DJ Dummy is one of those artists that brings an eclectic flair to his work; he is talented enough to masterfully capture the essence of a Henry Ossawa Tanner painting and recreate the artistic imaginings of a Faith Ringgold in his works of art. He is able to adapt and create in the world of Hip Hop sounds that are both palatable to ear and enriching to the soul. Taji Mag had the chance to interview the ageless, musical virtuoso to discuss his journey and his love of Hip Hop.

What influenced you to become a DJ?

DJ Dummy: “I was surrounded by DJ’s. My father is a DJ, my brother (DJ LS1) is a DJ. I also had uncles and three cousin’s that were also DJ’s. Going back to the 80’s, I used to go the park and DJ’s would have their equipment out and I am watching these guys, seeing that they were doing things that my father wasn’t doing. All my father did was mix two records together to continuously keep the beat going and now I’m seeing these guys in the park, they are scratching, making the record double. I was like, ‘this is something different!’ So that’s what made me want to get into it. I was 8 years old at the time and I knew I was going to DJ.”

You’ve performed at the White House, almost all of the late night shows, NBA All-Star games, and Dave Chappelle’s Block Party. You cover pretty much everything! How are getting all of these nice gigs?

DJ Dummy: I’ve been with the right people and I can honestly say that. I’ve been with Common for the last 17 years and I can’t take anything away from that man. He has put me in such amazing places. I get to shine [and] walk away with people knowing my name. I owe a lot of those experiences to Common. Because of him, I have performed at the White House three times!

What are your top three favorite gigs?

DJ Dummy in action.

DJ Dummy: I change the order of them all the time but… When I got to perform at the White House it was out of this world. First of all, it was President Barack Obama’s first party at the White House, this was the biggest thing ever. The fact that the President and the First Lady were partying with us was great! Secret Service was there but they weren’t crowding them. Barrack was in the middle of the dance floor partying with his guests. You have to think, this was our first Black president, we didn’t think we would ever have a Black president. That’s what was going through our minds as guests as we partied with him.


The next big gig was the Dave Chappelle Block Party. I tell people that you may have seen the DVD but you weren’t there! It was amazing and so great! First of all, to be in Brooklyn and to have all those artists on one stage with artist like Kanye, Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, Common, The Roots, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, and the Fugees was awesome! I tell people that you don’t know what that meant for Hip Hop that night! There were so many other artists that jumped on stage that they didn’t put in the movie. It started at 10 am and didn’t end until midnight. It was like our Hip Hop Woodstock! It rained all day and we still rocked! I really, really loved that night! There were no fights or anything it was all about the music.

My next big event was the first time I performed at Madison Square Garden. That was a big moment for me. I never thought I would be performing there. Here I am, in my hometown, where I was born and raised. but there I was on the stage performing. I was doing the opening set with Common. During the set, I had a 5-minute solo and after I was done, the crowd went bananas and if I would’ve blinked I would’ve cried. It got no better than that!

Tell me about a few other famous artists that you have worked with?

DJ Dummy: Queen Latifah, every time she calls me I am always available. I love working with her. She is such an amazing person and she has a great personality. I respect her more than I respect Oprah, no discredit to Oprah because she isn’t my Hip Hop era. Latifah came straight out of Jersey and to be the woman that she is in Hollywood, you have to be proud of her.

DJ Dummy with Queen Latifah

J.Cole taught me about putting out great work, like whole albums and not just singles. Each of his albums are full stories. Like the album J.Cole: Sideline Story was about him trying to break into the music industry or his album Born Sinner which was about him making it big but making so many mistakes. His approach to music is if the radio picks it up as a single, OK, but if he is in the studio he is not trying to make a single because that is not what he is about.

With Alicia Keys, I felt like I was working with God’s angels. I just kept thinking, ‘Is this person really this nice?’ I had to keep asking myself because she is so amazing. As soon as she walks in a room, the whole room lights up. She just brings that energy with her. If you are in the studio and you make a mistake, she would look at you with an amazing smile and say ‘Oh it’s ok, let’s just do it again.’ She is just an amazing person.

Why do you love Hip Hop?

DJ Dummy: I grew up in Brooklyn, NY in the late 70’s and early 80’s. All I heard was disco music played by my parents. Like Motown from that era, I loved music from there. Then when I heard somebody rapping these words over one of my fathers’ old records, I was like ‘Hey that’s Good Times but they are actually doing some raps over it!’ It grabbed me like holy cow! I was thinking this is was something we could relate to. It wasn’t about shaking your booty or love, this rap was about how we were talking growing up in the streets. It was just something we could relate to. Not saying we couldn’t relate to disco, disco was just there at the time. Once I heard groups like Sugarhill Gang, Grandmaster Flash, and the Cold Crush Brothers rapping over my fathers’ old records, it was the best of both worlds. Then there used to be jams outside of the park where the DJ would bring out the big bottom bass speakers and he would have control of the crowd that consisted of break dancers and other people dancing. That was Hip Hop. The music wasn’t Hip Hop, the whole environment was Hip Hop. That is when and why I fell in love with Hip Hop.

When it comes to Hip Hop, DJ Dummy truly exemplifies the quote, “To find joy in work, is to discover the fountain of youth.”

Make sure to look check out DJ Dummy’s tour schedule for performances near you and pick up his collaborative hit album “Vintage Babies” with Maimouna Youssef.

Slave Stories

10 Reasons I Will Never Get Tired of ‘Slave Stories’

In the wake of WGN’s newest hit show ‘Underground’, which premiered last month starring Jurnee Smollett Bell and Aldis Hodge and follows a group of slaves attempting to escape a Georgia plantation through the Underground Railroad, I want to remind the nay sayers of the value these stories still have all these years later. Just because the ignorant choose to believe Black history started with slavery does not mean we cannot honor our foremothers and fathers by keeping their struggle alive through various art forms and reminding ourselves the stock from which we come. From soul food to head wraps the very fiber of our being, just like this country’s, was built on the backs of slaves and there is no shame in that. We should embrace our ‘slave stories’.

Here are 10 reasons I will never get tired of well crafted books, movies and television shows where the plot includes slavery.


Some Black folks get wind of a movie about slavery coming out and immediately get upset. “Damn! Another slave movie!” And I get why. Slavery is not the beginning of the history of the African Diaspora nor is it the pinnacle of our existence in North America. Why can’t movies be made about our Kings and Queens? Why hasn’t a movie about Black Wall Street or The Move Organization been made? I agree with that sentiment. I do wish a wider range of our stories made it to the silver screen. HOWEVER- because I am a seeker of knowledge and information I don’t REQUIRE others to show me my people in a positive light and I don’t EXPECT them to. I do that for myself. And WE must do that for OURSELVES. For those who haven’t noticed, our images in the media will never be what we want them to be unless we are controlling them. And when we cannot control what someone else is passing off as ‘Blackness” we must provide the world with alternative interpretations of our multidimensional selves.


How could I ever be upset about present day proof of the barbarism and hypocrisy of this country and where it all started? We still have men shooting down men, women and children in cold blood simply for being Brown skinned and getting away with murder because the system is rooted in the very thinking that made slavery acceptable for centuries. How could I not be a fan of knowing the truth? Plus it’s nice to be reminded how far we’ve come, but more crucially, how far we still need to go in order to achieve a truly equitable and accessible society.


I think part of the aversion Black people have to movies about slavery is an association with slaves because they are Black. They don’t want to think of themselves in that situation and they don’t want to witness their people being subjugated. That is understandable. But what we have to understand about slaves is that they were people first. They belonged to their mothers, wives, tribes, and children long before outsiders deemed them property. It is just a word and no slave was ever “just a slave.” They were people like you and I and I am not ashamed of my ancestors. If anyone should feel shame it is the descendants of the slave holders, NOT the descendants of the slaves.


When you look at a slave movie, and you watch the interactions between slave master and slave, between the slaves from different African countries, between the dark skinned and bi-racial children born into slavery and treated differently because of their hair texture and complexion, you understand the root of a multitude of modern day ills effecting the Black community. There are many different types of slavery. Think of the woman with locs who had to cut them to keep her job because someone somewhere with bone straight hair decided dreads are “unprofessional” and it became unwritten law. Think of the youth killing each other in the streets because they can’t see eye to eye simply because they live in different housing developments. Think of how many times on social media you see the phrase team light skin or team dark skin. These are all modern day manifestations of century old foolishness meant to keep us separated from each other while trying to assimilate into a culture that wants nothing to do with our authentic selves.


Did you hear about the board of education in Texas changing the name of slavery to ‘the transatlantic triangular trade’ in its text books in the first of many steps toward erasing US slave trade from the history books altogether? Cause it happened in 2012. And its happening all over America. In addition to white-washing our characters in film, excluding us all but completely in history, misrepresenting and/or continually trying to discredit our leaders in the public sphere and picking and choosing whom to celebrate based on who posed the slightest threat to the status quo, they are straight up trying to erase slavery from the collective conscious of America.


The erasure of slavery from American history would not only be an insult to the memory of the millions of slaves who were bought, sold, starved, raped, beaten and dehumanized before our time, but it would also make the current situation of Blacks in America a mystery. If you understand that Africans were deemed only 3/5 of a human being at the very same time the U.S of A was fighting for freedom and autonomy from Great Britain than you can comprehend why the Trayvons, Jordans, and Rekias of the present day cannot receive justice.


When discussing the brutality of the TransAtlantic slave trade people often argue that slavery was everywhere, since the beginning of time, and that some Africans sold their own people into slavery. Since this is true, some believe what happened to the Africans traveling through the middle passage and arriving in the colonies can be lumped into all the other forms of slavery throughout history. That is a cop out and an insult, not only to the memory of the human beings who lived through slavery, but also to those after them who lived through the Jim Crow era, lynch mobs, the KKK, and those after them who were beaten, jailed, attacked by dogs and sprayed with high power water hoses during the Civil Rights era not even 50 years ago. If you take a good hard look at not just slavery, but its short and long term ramifications, there is no way a comparison to anything else could be legit.


Film and literature enable us to travel to places and times we may never get to actually experience. In the case of films about slavery I think it’s important to relive that pain and anguish. Not to be overcome by it but to understand the greatness from which we come. We survived this. The strength, determination and resilience of our people is showcased by the simple fact that we are still here. After centuries of subjugation we are still fighting to be seen as human beings by some members of society, and yet we live as students, artists, doctors, lawyers, entertainers, educators, politicians, engineers, authors, athletes, and the list goes on. Knowing our history helps many of us strive for excellence in the present as a way to pay homage to those before us.


If you ask someone under the age of 15 whether or not they have seen ‘Roots’ the answer will most likely be no, but if you ask them whether or not they’ve seen ’12 Years a Slave’ you might be surprised how many of them would be able to discuss it with you. It’s very important for young people to stay current and they often shy away from anything deemed ‘old (with the exception of vintage/thrift clothing which is now trendy.) Contemporary films about slavery keep dialogue on the subject open and give young people the option of simply watching a movie to learn more about the time period.


Black people are often made to feel as though they are wrong, rude, sensitive or delusional when they take a stance on racial issues. Some have opted out of having an opinion altogether and simply keep quiet in the wake of blatant racism or they will purposely take a self destructive stance so they don’t seem ‘butthurt.’ I think that kind of thinking has a lot to do with the sharp rise in numbers of people who are all of a sudden tired of slave movies and being very vocal about it. Part of my pride in being who I am comes from knowing where I’ve been and how people like me have persevered so I don’t mind being reminded of one particular part of our long, glorious and GLOBAL history of ingenuity, courage and uniqueness.