Positive Hip Hop Podcast Delivered on MP3 and in iTunes

Positive Hip-Hop PodcastThe Positive Hip Hop podcast is a series of shows that feature Hip-Hop with a message.

One of my favorites is Episode 6: “Social & Political Change”. This episode is jam-packed with socially aware hip hop with a great beat. Tracks include: KRS-One – “Illegal Business”, Head-Roc – “America!” and Ozomatli ft Common – “Embrace The Chaos”.

To get all 8 episodes of the Positive Hip-Hop Podcast, visit http://www.theskybeneath.com/podcast/

I Used Punk Rock and Hip Hop Lyrics in My Toastmasters Speech

Words and environment impact your life. In this speech from the Toastmasters manual, The Entertaining Speaker, I outline a musical anthology of my life from childhood to adolescence and into adulthood. Influences include weekly immersion in Soul Train, Songs in the Key of Life by Stevie Wonder, Rapper’s Delight by Sugar Hill Gang and People’s Instinctive Travels and Paths of Rhythm by A Tribe Called Quest.

In the 80’s there was fun to be found in the punk rock scene. Songs mentioned and sung in this speech: California Uber Alles and Police Truck by The Dead Kennedys and New Dreams by Naked Raygun. I finished up with my theme song: Galvanize by The Chemical Brothers with Q-Tip on vocals.

Consequences of a Music-Less Life

I’m still curious and confused about the seeming lack of availability and interest in new, emerging, underground music. Maybe I’m a rare case. Maybe music means more to me than most but here’s my story of how a lack of music almost killed me.

In the 80’s I was a teen and a punk rocker. I was basically on my own after the age of 16 so I went to every gig I could, some times going to live shows 2-3 times in one week. Little did I know, this constant barrage of punk and alternative music was shaping my opinions, passions and politics on a deep level. Punk rock actually gave me wings. I admired the dedication and bravery of the musicians I went to see. I realized that I wasn’t the only one who noticed that some things are not right in the world.

I don’t have to tell you, no one wanted to hear what the punkers had to say in the 80’s. Most of the shows I went to had less than 100 people in attendance. When things got too big or too crazy, the cops were always there to break it up and take people off to jail. In some cases the riot squad greeted you as you entered the concert hall, just to let you know who’s in charge. Now, here we are, 25-30 years later seeing the teens of today listening to the music of the 80’s as if its something new and revolutionary.

May I interject here that the punk artists kids are listening to today aren’t just entertainers, some aren’t even technically musicians. Many punkers had no idea how to play their instruments when they first started. Many of them created hand-made fliers and had them photocopied free of charge on someone else’s photocopy machine. Most punks didn’t have contracts or agents. It was sheer grit, determination and persistence that kept the bands that you know about today alive. There are many, many other punk bands, some just as good or better than the ones you know about. The main difference is that some gave up and some didn’t. Punk legends like Mike Ness of Social Distortion exist solely due to determination.

Heres my beef: if the kids of today are listening to the music of 20 years ago, where are they getting the lesson of sheer grit, determination and persistence? Who is going to carry the torch and speak about today’s issues, most of which are the same as the issues of the 80’s, only worse. Why are the youth of today listening to anti-Reagan songs and not anti-Bush songs?

But I digress. I still haven’t explained how lack of music almost killed me. You see, when I was about 18 it was clear that my drug addiction was serious and I needed to do something about it. By the age of 21, I had been in several recovery programs and was beginning a process of wanting to change my life. For me, that meant I had to stay away from the old people and the old places. Gradually I began to slip away from my punk past and tried to be more “socially acceptable.”

The compelling need to “fit in” accelerated drastically when I entered college and eventually University. I found myself completely forgetting all about punk rock and gradually went to fewer and fewer live shows and even stopped listening to most of my records and tapes. I was proud of myself for a while, maybe too proud. I was reaching my goals and moving up in the world. I got a degree, then another degree, then another. In the process, I completely disconnected with my punk past.

I tried to fit in, get the jobs and connections I wanted. I was not connected with punk in anyway. I never had the opportunity to talk to anyone about seeing GBH at the Olympic Auditorium two times in one week or seeing the Ramones every year at the Paladium. I couldn’t listen to punk rock on the job and frankly, I found punk rock to be distracting to me and my goals.

Eventually music even began to annoy me. I was mad at the neighbors when they played it too loud. I saw myself turning into the cranky old drag that I encountered in most adults I met. I began running on auto-pilot. I listened to rap and hip-hop, maybe just because it was there and everyone else was listening. I was becoming noticeably depressed. I was training to be a therapist and sitting in meetings talking about “clients” who have “problems”. All the clients and problems were familiar to me, a part of my past.

I believed that each client I saw had potential to overcome whatever they wanted. I believed they could be whoever they wanted to be. Yet none of the ‘professionals’ agreed. I was shunned, not taken seriously and basically told “you’re just an intern, what do you know?”

On the one hand I was offended by the callous and careless way professionals talked about the people we were supposed to be helping but often I kept my mouth shut. When I did open my mouth, there was always a consequence. I was dismissed from more than one position for having an opinion. I tried to keep my mouth shut. I became more and more depressed. I chastised myself and thought to myself “why cant you just be like everyone else? Why can’t you just fit in and shut up?”

So, there I was, training to be a therapist and for the first time in my life, I found it completely necessary to take anti-depressants. I literally felt like I was going crazy and that was especially disturbing in light of the fact that I was supposed to be helping people!

Ironically, it was when I was “cleansing” my negative past that I found my soul mate and reconnected with music in a new and positive way. My husband, former owner of Zed Records in Long Beach was in the store when I brought in a stack of vinyl to sell. In the process of sorting, scanning and observing my records for their suitable re-sale potential, I sparked up a conversation with the man who would become my husband within about a year. He liked hockey, I liked hockey. He liked punk, I liked punk. We enjoyed each others company. But it would be almost 10 years before I began to realize the significance of our match and the importance of music in drawing us together.

In 1998 I experienced small reminders and nudges of who I was and who I could be but I wrote most of them off as the “idealistic, unrealistic, drug-induced fantasies” of the past. I would hear the nudging call to action in songs by Black Eyed Peas and A Tribe Called Quest but I mostly hid my love of hip-hop because fears like “what will people think, I should grow out of this, I’m just some old person trying to be cool.” Hip Hop and Punk were like guilty indulgences I hid from the ‘professional’ people in my life.

Once I got an iPod, things really began to change. Once I was able to easily carry the soundtrack of my life in my purse, able to listen to the Buzzcocks followed by Snoop Dogg and chased by Social Distortion anytime, anywhere; I began to transform. My dreams re-awakened. Lyrics of power, being yourself and letting go of concern for what others think lifted my soul.

I began to tell people, “I used to be a punk rocker.” I described my spiky blue hair and my shaved head. Some people laughed, some people said “cool”, others were entirely speechless, still others said “no way” as they stood there with their eyes bugged out.

The familiar lyrics and sounds of the underground began to stir something within my soul. I began to remember who I really was. I stopped caring about what everyone thought. I started to think about what I want for my life rather than what society wants for my life. I began to realize the traps I build around myself and how the mainstream society reinforced the validity and ‘rightness’ of those traps. Sometimes I was pissed off. Other times I was shocked. Sometimes I was sad but mostly I was determined. I was determined to revive the 16-year-old punker in me. I was determined to take her out of the closet and say look world, here I am so $*& you!

I could go on and on but mainly I have a deep, nagging fear and this is why I’m writing this long post. If the youth of today have no role models to show them how to be independent, to start their own businesses, to live free of corporate oppression, what on earth does the future hold in store for us? Will it be a rehash and reinforcement of the same old, same old? Will George Orwell’s 1984 be a reality?

Remember, most of the popular anti-depressants, anti-anxiety medications on the market didn’t even exist in the 1980’s and now they are being passed out like candy to many people as a cure-all for the ‘problem of depression’. Rates of depression increase in society and pharmecuetical companies become more powerful. What if the depression is from oppression? If so, all the pills in the world aren’t gonna help.

Listening to music that’s 10, 20 or 30 years old makes about as much sense as reading newspaper articles from 30 years ago and claiming that you are informed and educated. The time is now, with the advent of instant information for all of us to step out of our boxes a bit and look at what’s new while continuing to enjoy what’s old. I think we need to listen to the message under the message.

Punk is more than just a bunch of rebellious, belligerent youth with a lack of classical music training. Punk is a movement and a statement about deciding to be who YOU are not what society determines you should be. Right this moment new music is being created by new people. Some of them will be huge one day, others will fade away but if you’re sitting at home listening to the same stuff your parents listened to, you’re missing out on the real-time experience of history in the making.

(Me and the Black Eyed Peas in 1998. They played at a record store inside Universal Studio Walk, about 30 people were there to see them….if that. Truthfully, most people were there to see Kobe, a well-known soccer player, BEP just happened to be the “opening act.” If you were paying attention to alternative radio (KCRW.com/Chocolate City) you could have been there. I will tell you this: NOBODY except me asked for their autograph and to take a picture with them. I have the Behind the Front album signed by the entire band.)

I’m so grateful that I had all the experiences I had in life and Im grateful for the opportunity to experience first-hand how plain, ordinary (and sometimes downright untalented) people say “I don’t care” and go for it anyway. And guess what, it ends up that it doesn’t matter if someone is good or not. As long as you are clear about who you are and don’t give up, you will make it. That’s the message under the message. Do you hear it?

(This article was originally written in 2006)

Female Rapper Roxanne Shanté Gets Stiffed on Royalties – Warner Music Pays for Her PhD

New York Daily news published an article titled Rapper behind ‘Roxanne’s Revenge’ gets Warner Music to pay for Ph.D on August 23, 2009.

Watch Roxanne’s Revenge on YouTube.

It’s a great story of how persistence and determination paid off for Shanté. Despite the fact that the record company tried to stiff her out of all her royalties, they couldn’t find a way to deny the clause in her contract that stated they would pay for her education for life.

The result, Shanté got a PhD in Psychology at Cornell to the price tag of $217,000 and now she’s using her education and rapping/hip hop skills to help urban African-American’s express their angst through non-traditional counseling methods. She helps clients to “unleash their inner MC and shout out exactly what’s on their mind”.

Read the entire article at NewYorkDailyNews.com.


Toastmaster Persuades New School Power to Stand Up

Today I delivered my tenth speech at Agape Toastmasters and completed the requirements for a Competent Communication award. The speech is titled, “Stand In Your New School Power and Dare to Make a Difference” (if you don’t see a video above, click here to watch it on YouTube). I joined Toastmasters just over a year ago because I’ve always enjoyed public speaking and wanted to improve my skills and break out of my comfort zone.

I’ve been speaking to groups of people for about 16 years. However, most of my speaking has been somewhat informal, (i.e. leading small, intimate groups), or it’s been structured but based on a cirruculm (i.e. instructing classes at Long Beach City College). Although teaching, leading and speaking have always been rewarding to me, I felt like I was holding back on presenting passionately and daring to create my own presentations.

In my past year or so at Agape Toastmasters I feel like I’ve really broken out of the mold I was in and this presentation in particular was one of the most exhilarating, honest and enjoyable pieces of work I’ve ever had the privledge of delivering to a live audience.

In my mind, this is the beginning of my speaking career and I hope to have the opportunity to deliver this presentation and others like it to groups of leaders in various locations. Specifically I would like to speak to teachers, therapists, social workers, ministers and organizations who provide service to the community. My hope is to get paid as a presenter and to have the opportunity to sell my book, From Sabotage to Success.

Over the past 16 years I’ve worked at numerous non-profit agencies and I’ve met many educated, dedicated and warm-hearted people who yearn to make a difference in the world yet seem to be confined and stifled, not to mention overwhelmed. My hope is that I can help these leaders feel strong and powerful so they can do the work they’ve always dreamed of. In so doing, I will be fulfilling a dream of my own: to use my skills to make a positive difference in the world for those who need it most.

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From Sabotage to Success by Sheri ZampelliIf you have a saboteur like Puleza who’s stealing your power, purchase my book From Sabotage to Success and learn how to take your power back.

If you would like to book me to speak at your next event, please contact me at sherizampelli [at] gmail.com.

Roller Derby – Now THAT’s an Attitude

Sheri Zampelli Punk Rock GirlI grew up on punk rock and as such, I’m simply not the type of person who can sit still quietly for any length of time. When the “punk movement” was surging through Southern California in the 80’s and 90’s I attended many shows and engaged in many conversations about “what punk REALLY is.” A good number of people had the “punk is an attitude” philosophy but somehow I sensed this was mostly rhetoric and pontification versus the way people acted in real life.

Punk Rock BoyThe truth is, there were unwritten rules about what was “punk” and what was not “punk” and though they may have changed from person to person, they were there nonetheless. There was a dress code and a set of acceptable behaviors. Never once did I see a man in a three-piece suit at a gig, long hair and tans were definitely not “cool” and black was the color of conformity. Oh, and by the way, in many circles if you did anything that might make you money or cause you to be successful (even if it was having a punk band) you were a “sellout.” UGH.

It seems that most groups of people eventually fall into these traps with rigid roles, rules and restrictions, even when their starting premise is freedom of expression. I got disenchanted by the whole punk thing over time, it just didn’t seem vital anymore and I missed the “good old days” where it seemed fun and raw and fresh and creative.
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(Open The Wreck’s MySpace page in a new window and listen to Punk is an Attitude off of Not So Quiet on the Western Front while you read the rest of this blog. If you listen while you read it will really enhance the experience. If you like it, buy the single on iTunes.)
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Well, all my good feelings about punk and DIY culture and self-expression and hell, even the women’s movement and the civil rights movement, came back when I stepped foot into my first Derby Doll bout at Little Tokyo in April ’07. I fell in love instantly and began skating with Fresh Meat and doing volunteer work almost immediately.

There is so much I could tell you about this DIY operation. SOOO many behind-the-scenes stories just begging to be told but I think I’ll start it all off with a pictorial that captures a tiny bit of the Roller Derby Attitude.

It seems to me that the only people who are not welcome at a Derby Doll bout are those who are under the age of 21 (and I’m sure many of them WISH they could come). Other than that, this is truly an ecclectic, diverse, creative, energetic group of amazing people with almost unanimously great attitudes. I’ll let the pictures tell the story. And when you finish looking at the pictures and start reaching for your wallet to buy tickets for the next bout, go to this link and do it now. It is a life-changing event, trust me. (By the way, you can click on any of the photos below and see a larger version).

Crowd shot at the LA Derby Doll Bout, 5-31-08

Mila Minute fan displays support as crowd looks on. Man with camera documenting roller derby history. It’ll only go up from here.

Drew Barrymore, Ellen Page and the Cookie Monster at LA Derby Dolls 5-31-08

Part of the reason it will grow is because of Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut of the movie Whip It! starring Ellen Page. The publicity machine is already on the scene and pictures of Drew at the Doll Factory have popped up in People Magazine and on People.com at least twice.

The cookie monster served as the Tough Cookie mascot for the evening. Look closely and you’ll see Drew Barrymore on the right, she is taking research photos and appears to be talking to Ellen Page. Whip it! is a movie about a young girl coming of age in roller derby world.

Los Angeles City Council Member Eric Garcetti sings the national anthem at the LA Derby Dolls 5-31-08

13th District Los Angeles City Councilmember, Eric Garcetti gets the party started by singing the national anthem to a sold out crowd at the Doll Factory.

Krissy Krash and family.  LA Derby Dolls.

Tough Cookie, Krissy Krash poses for a photo with Daddy and Gramma Krash. They come to every game and sit in the VIP section cheering Krissy on.

Girls get out for some LA Derby Doll action

And these women? They’re cheering everyone on. It’s girls night out and time for some roller derby fun.

Haute Wheels is heated

Here’s the type of energy and dedication the skaters have. Everyone in the building is pumped up.

Automatic Music Explosion singer, Jodie makes a sign at LA Derby Dolls

This beautiful young lady is Jodie. She’s the lead singer for the automatic music explosion. Even though she’s getting ready to play a gig, she still finds time to make a sign for her Derby Doll friend, Laura Palm-Her. If you listen to some of the songs on their MySpace page, you’ll get a feel for what it’s like the entire night at a derby bout. They even have a song titled Roller Derby.

Racy DC and Krissy Krash of the Los Angeles Derby Dolls

There is no size, weight or height requirement in roller derby. If you wanna kick ass on wheels and you’re over 21, come on down. You literally don’t even have to know how to skate to get started.

Varsity Brawlers of the LA Derby Dolls

Here’s a glimpse of the newest Derby Doll team, the Varsity Brawlers. They’ll compete in their first bout in October, 2008. If you’re smart, you’ll get tickets now, before it’s impossible to do so. Heck, the place only holds 1,700 spectators and it sells out quicker and quicker everytime.