CategoryTTT Blog

Reminiscing About My Ancestors

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I use to love to go visit the dubmaster, Augustus Pablo up in the hills of Jamaica. I needed frequent getaways from the hustle of my life as a music executive. On the surface, it made me feel rather special to spend time with one of the most amazing musicians to come out of Jamaica. (Google him) But beneath the surface were the living precepts of Rastafari. Augustus Pablo lived Rastafari.

I first met Augustus Pablo when I graduated from Syracuse University. It was one of those speechless moments when Trevor, my baby’s daddy and love of my life introduced us on Utica Avenue in Brooklyn. Having played his music as a college radio dj for the previous 4 years it was life coming full circle right in front of me. As Trevor’s good bredren, Pablo automatically became mine and even long after Trevor made his transition he continued to spiritually, mentally and even materially tend to my needs. When Busta Rhymes illegally used one of his samples…he called on me to remedy the situation. I was able to broker a deal that benefitted Pablo. He turned around and gave me a significant portion of his earnings. This was his WAY. The Rastafari way. Chalice everyday. Ital living. Music, deep reasonings and a disdain for all things Babylon…with me by his side. I loved our time together. I was the Queen of his bredren and he treated me like a Daughter. Visiting him in the hills on a regular brought me closer to the lifestyle that I had chosen as a child much more than Brooklyn ever could. He was my shining example of Rastafari.

There were studio sessions; sitting in at Rockers record shop which he owned; Tuff Gong meetings (where his records were pressed; to the ital bredren pon the corner with the good cornmeal porridge were the equivalent of heaven to me…my favorite part of the visits were when we went to see his herbalist, Dr. Bagga. I remember when we first pulled up at Bagga’s gates in Kingston…one of many many times that I would visit him. The veranda was full of people needing his care. Inside was full with another set of people. Old, young, Jamaican, Asian. You name it…they were there. Pablo, who never went anywhere empty handed would enter immediately and greet his bredren and present him with whatever gifts he brought. He would then sit down with us in the back yard which was also full of people (LOL) and reason for a few minutes before he would have to get back to his patients.

Dr. Bagga’s house was the healing house. Many who had been turned away by the local hospital were sent to Dr. Bagga, the roots doctor up the road. With patients everywhere. Dr. Bagga truly did everything in Jah time. He healed, he smiled, he loved and I was one of the thousands and thousands of recipients of his healing hand.

I learned last week that he was in the hospital. I made mental note to reach out to his daughter and send him whatever I could. Before I could do that…Dr. Bagga made his transition on the earth day of the Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey (Monday, August 17th) at 11:40pm. It hit me particularly hard because he transitioned before I did what I said I would do. Bagga joins his bredrens Trevor and Augustus Pablo in the world of eternity. Meanwhile we here, the living, must rise from our sleep and slumber and manifest both the little and the big of what we KNOW and SAY we will do. Lesson Learned.

I am working everyday to get better at being me…a Rastafari child of the Most High. I continue to fall short at times but I am greatly encouraged by the all the angels that I have working on my behalf. I will not fail.

It’s Real This Time

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I wrote this July 2018.  It’s real this time. Oh and today is my birthday. January 21st.

I want to move forward but I want to leave all the baggage, the sickness, the dis-ease and the disappointment behind.  I have a friend who has been saying that as soon as she quits her job the saints will come marching in and she will be happy. That was 5 years ago and she is still at the same job.  So does that mean that she has been unhappy for 5 years?

I don’t know.  Just trying to make a point.

We all know that person that says “as soon as such and such happens…my life will change”. Well I am that person depending on what day you catch me.  “As soon as I am healed I’m gonna do such and such.”  What you gonna do then that you can’t do now Karen?

Yes. I am talking to myself in the midst of talking to you.

What I am realizing is that I must learn to live with, through and beside my health awakening.  Not referring to it as a challenge any more. Dis-ease just doesn’t go away one day and health appear the next.  They work in tandem. Doing a dance together and depending on the work you put in, one or the other will dominate.

Life is too short to be waiting for something to happen before you make something else happen. Next month I will announce the launch of my start up, HealingATL as I continue to push myself (with your help)…through the stages.

In Da Club – Throwback

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In Da Club w/ Babygurl

So I’m on the way to the club with my daughter. Well kinda. She is suppose to meet her friends there but they’re not coming until later so she asks me to come and make sure she gets in okay and then (presumably) leave. She is home from college for the holidays and her friends were raving about the “Broke and Boujee” parties at the Five Spot. In my mind I am thinking what daughter wants their mother in the club or even near the club with them.  So there’s is a long line at the door. The doorman says “I’m checking IDs, 18 to get in and 21 to drink”. “Okay” I say awkwardly looking for my ID and glancing around to see if anyone notices my grown ass self bout to go into this teenage club with a bunch of 18 to 21 year olds. Of course I can’t find my ID for a second. I’m holding up the line and feeling a bit paranoid. I’m thinking to myself…”I bet they all wondering who holding up the line”. I imagine one of the many teenagers who are in line saying to themselves, “somebody’s mama” and laughing to themselves.

So now we are literally one step from being in the club. And my daughter, after spotting a number of good looking eye candy says to me “oh u don’t need to come inside”. I laugh to myself and just imagine for as brief a moment as possible how horrified I would be if my Mama came up in the club with me. But at this point I am too damn curious. We right at the door and it looks like it’s on and popping up in this club. I look at her with eyes that communicate, “too late baby…I ain’t going no where but inside this club.”

So we get inside. I am thinking its 10 dollars. And the girl at the door says 1 dolla. I say “what” leaning closer to her ears making it oh so obvious that I don’t know the routine and she yells “one dollar”. Okay. So I must be really out of the loop. 1 dollar. OMG.

So I walk in. Feeling good that my daughter hasn’t abandoned me (at least not yet). You know how we would do back in the day…and act like….”Oh I’m not with them”while… standing a comfortable distance from Mama. Well maybe that was just me. But not my daughter Kenya. She trooping by my side. Got me feeling good that my baby girl, on the threshold of twenty is still trooping with Mama.

So we walk through the club headed for the right spot to claim as our own. And me desperate to make some contact with a few heads my age. I see a few. “Whew” I lament to myself. I knew it was some OGs up in this place. We grab a seat near the stage with full view of everything. The placed is packed with wall to wall of our future. I’m still a little paranoid. I see heads nodding at me; waving periodically; smiling. Got me wondering if they thinking…”that’s somebody mama, I better say hi.” I imagine it’s like seeing your teacher at the club. Maybe I’m just paranoid not sure why. Afterall, I am somebody’s Mama. Proud of it too!

As a marketer. I’m thinking. Damn. Who is promoting this event tonight. The club is packed wall to wall with the prime trendsetters and tastemakers of this generation. The latest clothes, baseball caps galore, fly sneakers all on display. Basically crunk. I’m thinking about these two new female rockers that I signed to my management company. What a perfect audience for them.

When we first came in the music was basically that retro sounding stuff that is suddenly popular. Go figure. Common, MJB, Kanye all at more beats per minute than I am use to.

Anyway, talk about young Black and Fabulous. There were quite a few caucasians in the house too. Fly brothers and sisters galore. When I tell u the place is crunk. I am feeling good flying beneath the radar. Then “Uh oh.” Here comes the roving photographer. I’m not sure if I’m more concerned about him taking a photo of me and someone seeing it and thinking that I hang out with teenagers at the club on weekends or if I was worried that he would pass me by embarrassed about taking a photo of someone who looked like his 11th grade language arts teacher. He stopped right in front of me. “Damn”, i utter underneath my breath. I quickly ask my daughter Kenya to come in the photo with me. At least folks will say, “she was there with her daughter.”

Then the music changes from retro pop to atlanta crunk. Most of the songs playing, I’ve worked on the videos in my other incarnation as one of top location scouts in Atlanta. Everyone from Dem Franchize Boyz, To Luda to Young Jeezy, to Lil Wayne (I know he not from Atlanta) to T.I.

It all kinda sounds the same…verbal noize with a nice beat. Just when I am thinking the worst of the artistic offering of this generation in the south specifically I remember a lecture the great historian Dr. Asa Hilliard did where he referred to a dissitation by a young writer and PHD candidate in which she compared crunk to spirituals both musically (the syncopation, the call and response) and spiritually (the chants, the praises, the letting go) So I sit up and take better notice; watching the crowd, listening more attentively, feeling the spirit. Its damn near holy ghost temperature and vibration in here. Wall to wall. A spiritual movement. One that us adults will completely miss with our judgemental- non-listening- pre occupied with life selves.

So my daughter is standing on the chair next to me. Observing. Bobbing her head, dancing. I’m feeling good that she feeling good and ain’t shy about completely expressing herself amongst her peers while I’m at the club WITH her. I’m spending my time typing these thoughts on the blackberry hoping to go unnoticed as someones mama trying to get crunk with the teenagers. So I decide to stand on the chair next to my daughter. I start bobbing and busting a little move and I am immediately stopped by her. “Mama” she says sounding and looking visibly annoyed, “U can’t do that”. “ Huh” I say. I mean we done made it this far. I’m in the club. She dancing and cutting up doing the booty dance right next to me. We dun crossed all the barriers. “So what is it now” my eyes respond minus the words. “you can stand on the chair but you can’t dance mama.”…”Please” she adds at the end of a momentary pause.

I’m okay with that. Again all I gotta do to put things in perspective is to imagine how horrified I would be if my mom were in the club with me MUCH LESS shaking her groove thing to the music that moved my generation. OMG. Just the thought. So I respect her wishes, conserve my bounce and just bob ever so slightly hoping that that will be okay.

Ok. So I’m on the chair. Typing away. The spirit is moving the crowd and that same spirit is moving my fingers to type this blog note to you’all. I type a few words and the next thing I know I look around and my daughter is gone. Poof. Like magic gone. So I’m like damn. “That must of been her plan all along”, “to get ghost”, “ Lose her mama in the club”. My rich paranoia at play again. My head is practically doing a 360 looking for her. But all I can see is the heads of literally hundreds of teens. Damn. Rather than go looking like a mad woman I stand there on the chair trying to adjust my eyes to survey headtops for any that might match my little Kenya’s. When I turn to look around again I sight her on stage getting the digits of one of the promoters. She probably thinking about throwing a party like this in DC at Howard University where she is a sophmore. And here I was thinking she ducking me. Our eyes meet and she looks at me with a knowing stare that says, “I’m taking care of some business mama…waving her iphone for further confirmation. Imagine me being worried that she was trying to dip. I feel a little silly. After all she ain’t me at that age. I forget that some times.

When she returns she says “Mama, I’m going outside for a minute its hot in here.” “I’ll come with you” I say without skipping one beat. “That’s okay Mama, I’ll be right back” I hear her utter faintly as I look at the back of her head. I’m wonder to myself how I’ve managed since she been off at college…With my paro self.

She returns. What a relief. I know she tired of me asking her. “Who’s that playing.” “what song is this”, “what song was that”. I just feel the need to know who these artists are that are making this wall to wall crowd of energy move uncontrollably in complete cooperation and obedience to the spirit. I know she getting tired of me asking. Before she went to college. I prided myself in at least being familiar with everything she listened to. I didn’t let anything slip by. I needed to know what she was thinking, what she listened to, what moved her and why. I must admit since she went off to school, I kinda fell off a little bit in terms of keeping up with all the music.

My “My President is Black” comes on. The whole room is one high school chorus. Couple fists in the air.

I continue to obey the rules. No dancing. I get away with slight head bobbing. I can’t help it. DJ in touch with the crowd and visa versa. They feeling each other. I’m feeling the whole experience…in da club. BROKE AND BOUJEE NOVEMBER 2008.

 

The Year Was 1988

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My Cycle Has Come Again!

Long before I became a location scout, big city record company marketer, artist manager, promoter, radio disc jockey, writer and the most important role of all MAMA, I was a little brown eye girl raised in Jamaica and East Flatbush eager to break into the music business. I had no conception of the word “no”. There was nothing that I didn’t feel like I couldn’t accomplish. Nothing. I moved around hardcore reggae circles with an enthusiasm and determination that made many a man adopt me as their little sister …reluctant…but still willing to show me the ropes. After all, I was a woman and this was their world. Or so they thought. I became both a student and practitioner all at once. Learning and doing while holding steadfast to my dream of becoming a powerbroker in the music business. I figured out how to get my own radio show and I got it. I researched who all the top radio dj’s were in the city and I got to know them ALL. I linked with all the key record distributers and kept my collection up to date with all the latest and whenever I could …I sat at the feet (or more so at the record counter) of the top record stores and listened and learned in what was to become my new classroom.

And then I released my first record. I arranged studio time. Worked out the track. Linked with the artist, Empress Akelia, and we went and recorded the first record that I produced. A track titled “Raggamuffin Girl” on Superpower/World Enterprise imprint, Live and Love.  The year was 1988.

Wow. I share this because life is a cycle. That was 20 years ago. And now 20 years later I am once again the student and practitioner all over again. Greater things are yet to come. Stay tuned.

Take A Listen. “Raggamuffin Girl” by Empress Akelia, (my Trini) firebrand produced and arranged by Karen Marie Mason. Another tune “Apartheid Is Wrong” written by my bredren
Victor Bloise.

Peter Tosh & Me

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I always had a zeal for this business of music. After graduating University where I majored in communication and minored in the Music Business, I jumped right in as a promotion assistant at Epic Record~and a short time later moving up to a product manager at Columbia Records (Sony) and eventually landing as head of the Black Music Marketing department at East/West Elektra Records under the guidance and tutelage of the only Black woman at that time to head a major record label, Sylvia Rhone. I was living my dream~working and developing the careers of artists once unknown ~ to superstar status. But I also had another parallel passion. And that was to take the music of my heritage, reggae, and position it in the international/mainstream arena. So my journey took me far and wide in the musical spectrum. For instance, I worked with a little known group from L.A. named Cypress Hill; two little boys who liked to wear their clothes backwards and the entire Ruffhouse label that later produced the Fugees and so many others. But I also worked with a DJ(that’s what we call MC’s in Jamaica) named SuperCat who we positioned to a mainstream audience without ever losing his foundation. I later went on to work with Ziggy Marley (this came some years after the encounter described in this blog), Terror Fabulous, Snow (don’t laugh), Nadine Sutherland and many others.

To say I was “ready” when I got “the call” from the wife of Peter Tosh…is an understatement. I can’t remember what his wife (Sister Marlene) was working on at the time. It could have been a foundation~or possibly a release of some catalog material~possibly even developing her own career. I don’t remember. All I remember was that I scheduled a meeting with the wife of legendary Wailer, Peter Tosh. I remember preparing a small portfolio of my work. I remember being in AWE of the possibility of meeting the “Stepping Razor” himself. Almost everything else is a dreamland fog. Prior to this, the closest I came to a Wailer was Madison Square Garden when Bob Marley opened for the Commodores. My brother and I sat on either side of my Mother and watched with binoculars a spectacular show while trying to enhale as much as we could. So the idea of actually coming close to Peter Tosh (via his wife) was all I needed to send me into a state of utter excitement. Now I must remind myself (as I get excited just writing and thinking about it), my appointment was NOT with Peter Tosh. I didn’t even know if he was in town or even in the country for that matter. My appointment was with the wife of a legend but my mind was firmly on him. My imagination was colorful and sent me deep into the abyss of …”what ifs”. And there I went ~”What if Peter was there”, “What if he wanted to talk about the music business and me managing him” I always dream big. What if, What if, What If.

So armed with a bag of “what if’s” I proceeded to his apartment on West 90 something street. It was one of those apartment buildings where you have to be announced by the doorman or clerk. The doorman called up stairs. I wanted to KNOW before I went upstairs if Peter answered. I wanted to know if he was home. But I didn’t want to be mistaken for some stalker of overzealous fan as I am sure this doorman has dealt with many a time. So I said nothing.

So the doorman said “its okay to go up”. I can’t remember the floor. But I remember how I felt. Great anticipation. By this time in my life I had met or worked with or interacted with or personally learned from some of the major cultural/historical icons of our times. But this is the closest that I had come to the Bob Marley and the Wailers legacy.

So there I was. I rang the doorbell and his wife Sister Marlene answered. We walked into the living room and sat. I looked around coyly for some sign of Peter. I listened for other footsteps and heard nothing. So we talked. I can’t even remember what about. Cause you KNOW where my mind was. Lord please forgive me for not being focused. I did my best. Then as if out of nowhere came this giant of a man. He had to be close to 7 feet. It seemed like he had to duck just to walk from room to room. Sister Marlene introduced me as a record company exec and radio personality/ With little expression but with a feeling of deep love he nodded and walked into the other room. He may have said something. I can’t remember. I was wide awake in a dream. He was the epitome of quiet fire. I would hear the fire side in a few minutes. So Sister Marlene and I continued our meeting and the doorbell rings. Peter answers the door. I hear a deliveryman uttering something about his TV. Within a matter of a few seconds I heard Peter talking about “bumbo clat TV, and how dem better have it fixed properly, etc, etc.” From where I was, I could neither see Peter or the deliveryman. I could only hear the conversation. If you would call it that. A few minutes later I heard what sounded like the running feet of the deliveryman racing to the elevator. It was obvious that Peter was not the one that you wanted to argue with.

Few minutes later peace returned and the smell of the good collie weed filled the air.

#Throwback

Jump!

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I love water aerobics. Combined with a good soundtrack and I can do miraculous things in the water that my body is not yet equipped to do on dry land. Today’s class was no exception. I was getting it in and when Kris Kross “Jump” pounded from the speakers and it was on in so many ways.

They were my first multi platinum group along with Cypress Hill (that story for another post) that I penned and developed the marketing plan for. And it wasn’t easy. I was just getting nestled into my new office and position at Columbia Records and as my reward my product management roster consisted of groups and labels that no one wanted, were not a priority and an uphill battle would lie ahead for this turban wearing long skirt flaunting product manager. The Ruffhouse label and their entire roster was handed to me unceremoniously. Here.

I took my time, spoke often with Jermaine Dupri and painstakingly began to implement strategy that would make an impact. It started with the album which at first was an EP. “Jump” was not on it and it wasn’t enough to compete with the hip hop of the day. Jermaine went back to the drawing board and brought back jump and a few other tunes. Now I had something to work with.

They brought the Krossed our look with them in the door. So rather than introduce them as “rappers” I led with their fashion identity and flooded the preteen magazines (Right on Blackbeat) with pin ups. No mention of music. I wanted to develop an audience who would troop for them musically when it was introduced. Next I went back and forth with Donnie and insisted that they appear backwards on the album cover. Over time with the team, publicity Chrissy Murray, street and hip hop promotion, Tyesh HARRIS and eventually Eddie Pugh and Demmette at commercial radio we started to get some traction.

But what brought everything together was their appearance on In Living Color. From day one I started to send Rosie Perez (talent booker and choreographer for the show) postcards of their fashion trend. She responded with “what is this and what am I suppose to do with this.” At that time there wasn’t much of a story at radio so my selling points were weak at best but my drive was strong. I continued to send her tear sheets from the teen mags, and keep her updated on the little victories as their story developed. Then one day she called and said such and such canceled can you get them out here tomorrow. I told her yes before I could get Donnie Ienner (President of Columbia) to agree but I knew it would happen. And it did.

That single appearance set them on the track to stardom.

So hearing them play this morning got me feeling a little nostalgic and a little sad. Loved them boys. RIP Chris Kelly. Long life Chris Smith.

Lost & Found

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“I have lost so much

but also I have gained so much

Learning to be equally grateful for both.”

Yo! That’s Hip Hop

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The year was 92′ Super Cat was one of my projects as the marketing director at Sony and I was especially proud and filled with responsibility as one of my dreams was coming true. I wanted to elevate reggae to popular status in US and position as many artist as possible for uber stardom. Outside of Shabba there was this renewed interest in reggae and (being a yardie) I had something to prove. I proved it. I will share that story later.

So on this faithful night Supercat was on the bill with PM Dawn. I don’t even remember how or why I made this happen but it was somehow part of the plan. The Sound Factory was packed.. Sardines-like packed. Cat did his thing and that should have been by cue to exit stage left.

Fact is as someone who was extremely active and extremely successful in the music business I rarely went out unless I was throwing the event or one of my artist was performing. Other than that I was home handling my business of motherhood. But on this night I invited a bunch of the folks from the Source Magazine in attendance and felt a light obligation to stay a little longer. But why.

The room felt tense. I was use to and could recognize the feeling as I had been in many a reggae dancehall where the noise being heard was not firecrackers. LIke the time I was at Red Parrot chilling with Shinehead when his bredren whispered something to him. He dipped. Quickly. Didn’t mention shit to me. I should have followed cause the next few minutes it was wild wild west up in there. Remember that Diane Cook. Gunshots everywhere. Everytime I see or talk to him I always remind him of his negligence.Not sure what I was doing there because it was not my event but a sister got to have a good time some time.

So PM Dawn starts to perform. I already told myself I would only stay for one song and dip. Don’t think he ever finished the first song because all I saw was a gang of people took over the stage (KRS One and his posse) and PM Dawn went flying in the audience. Well he was thrown after a few good licks. Two seconds later “South Bronx” came booming out the speaker and KRS One ruled the stage. WTF. And the place went wild. I had no idea what just happened. Didn’t sign up for this.

I called my car service and didn’t wait inside for their arrival. I would rather stand outside. This was too much. Why so much glee. I tried to talk to some of the guys from the Source but they were in their element and wasn’t hearing my “what’s going on” questions.

I was traumatized while most people were saying “yo that’s hip hop”.

I went home to my babygurl.

Next.

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