Baltimore rapper Eze Jackson sits down with three local artists: Vito Cash, Love the poet, and Scott Paynter. The three discuss what it means to be artists in a working class city, and how Baltimore’s art reflects the life of the city.
EZE JACKSON: What’s up, y’all? Welcome back for another episode of The Whole Bushel, here on The Real News Network. I’m your host, Eze Jackson. The Whole Bushel is an artist interview show, where we sit down with performing artists to discuss world issues, politics, recent events, and things that matter to them the most. All while sitting down eating crabs, the way we do here in Baltimore, Maryland. Today, I’m joined by Scott Paynter, AKA Scotty P., front manager at Jah Works, and solo vocalist, as well. I’m also joined by my man Vito Cash, producer, MC and saxophone player. I think you’ll enjoy him. And then also, we have the wonderful LOVE the Poet, spoken word artist, and founder of Brown and Healthy. How y’all doing? GROUP: Great… All right… Real good… happy to be here. EZE JACKSON: Crabs, man. This is very Baltimore. LOVE THE POET: Yeah. Oh, my God. EZE JACKSON: It’s a real Baltimore thing. How do you all think, like, Baltimore, you know, living, working here, influences your art personally? SCOTTY P: For me, I think Baltimore is just so real, you know? And outside of Philly is a blue-collar area, and Baltimore to me, very reminiscent of that blue-collar vibe. And I think the fact that we all know so many working artists -– artists who are actually doing their craft, for their living –- I think… I don’t know. That’s the trademark of Baltimore to me. LOVE THE POET: Yeah. I always have this saying, I came here in ’99, and one of the things I always noticed, especially as a poet, that people practice, in their house, and in the mirror for five years –- five years –- before they come outside and play. I always… You know before they come outside and play, and being a host of a venue — I run the longest-running monthly open mic in the city, called BE FREE Fridays, and being the host of that I have seen people get on the microphone and say, “I’m new, this is my first time performing at a venue,” and smash it out of the park. And then I ask them later, “How long were you practising?” and they will always say, “‘Bout five years.” I remember writing about five years, and so the joke is everybody practices. So, that informs me and my work, in a way where it’s, like, this city cultivates some of the best artists I’ve ever seen, traveled the world. I’ve not seen –- especially poets, I’ve not seen –- and people come from other cities, and say the same thing. They have not seen the caliber of artists, because we work really hard. We have to cultivate our own audience, and we have to convince them that it’s worth it. EZE JACKSON: Yeah, it’s an interesting thing to come from a working class environment. Like, Jeanette Monet is one of my favorite examples of that. I remember watching her in an interview, and she talked about her uniform. JEANETTE MONET: This is my uniform. This is my work uniform. It’s funny, because it started off as paying homage, and I still am, the working class. My mother is a janitor, or she was, she retired. And my father drives trash trucks, and my stepfather, who’s just like my father, still works at the post office. So, it was really just paying homage to the workingman and woman, who has to go in and where a uniform every single day. EZE JACKSON: I never heard anybody really connect that like that, that working class city culture is even translated in the arts, which is why we gotta make sure we get paid on time. GROUP: (laughter) VITO CASH: My perspective is a little bit different, especially a person that was born and raised here. Like, you know, I see it from that perspective, like, with the working class, but honestly how it affects my art, is that I feel like Baltimore gets left out of the conversation a lot of the time. We get overlooked. People look at New York, they look at Philly, they look past us and go to Atlanta, even D.C., even D.C. So, for me as artist, I feel like from my artistry, I feel like I’m always speaking from the perspective of a person who hasn’t been heard. (rapping) No shit, trying to make it back, baby, So I can never settle out for a couple of racks, baby, Most of these niggas take deals ’cause they know they … If I ever took a loss, you know I made it back, baby, Good help with the flow … like a crack, baby, and I never been afraid, Why would I start to fear niggas Know where not to step up in the … Kill niggas half the rappers in my city Pussy I feel niggas when … jury But they’re claiming that they’re real niggas Hah. I guess they want to fit in Instead of putting in the work these niggas rather put … That’s why I would never win, uh… Shine forever so as long as it’s here We might as well shine together And the lives won’t last for long, man, So I must speak truth to the dear young … Ring my … louder Louder. Man, just bring my shit louder. Louder. Louder… (saxophone playing – fade out) LOVE THE POET: Really, the only way to do it, and the advice that I give, I teach artist’s development and things like that, and the advice I give is, you have to build –- when you’re building your brand, you also have to build the audience around it. And you have to train them to understand what it is that you’re doing. And that is, because it’s the working class, this is not an artist city. VITO CASH: At all. LOVE THE POET: So, like, we also make this joke, in New York, and different places like, that where you go to poems, you can talk about butterflies and rainbows, and people will clap for you. In Baltimore, you may get booed. EZE JACKSON: Don’t nobody want to hear that shit. LOVE THE POET: Right. But… like, in a real way, in a real way you cannot… it has to be substantive, and it has to mean something. EZE JACKSON: Yeah, that’s true. LOVE THE POET: And it’s just not a… and the same thing is in D.C., D.C. you can get away with a lot of things, because it’s very art-friendly. VITO CASH: Different life-style… LOVE THE POET: And we’re getting to the place now –- I will say that, which is great, and progressive –- is we’re getting to the place now, where there are arts districts, becoming and saying, we’re arts districts, and… VITO CASH: We still gotta fight… look at what happened to the Bell. Like, you know, they shut that down because of what happened at Oakland. I understand, you know, but that was a hub for artists in Baltimore. Like, people… like Elon, like Butch Dawson, that whole situation. I woulda never heard of those people, if it wasn’t for that… EZE JACKSON: For viewers listening, Vito is referencing the closing of an arts space called the Bell Foundry, here in Baltimore, which was closed just a few days after the Ghost Ship burned down. So, yeah, it is, that’s an issue here — especially for artists who are trying to survive, and make money off of it — and it addressed a whole other issue about housing. We did a story on it here with The Real News Network. Jaisal Noor covered it, and Dharna Noor. But I want to touch back to what you were talking about, about the healthy lifestyle of the Seventh Day Adventists growing up, because you now have… you’ve started, Brown and Healthy, which in particular focuses on people of color, and encourages a healthy lifestyle among people of color. Would you consider this a healthy meal? LOVE THE POET: No. GROUP: (laughter) LOVE THE POET: Not at all… but… but… well, I mean, it’s perspective, right? And it’s everything in moderation. And that’s one of the things that we talk about with Brown and Healthy, and I like to bring this to the forefront. You know, like that Michelob commercial, where in the morning they work out, bright and early. Then they go to work. And then in the evening they go to Happy Hour, right? That’s the American way. EZE JACKSON: Mmm. That’s the lifestyle. Yeah. LOVE THE POET: It is the American way; you know what I’m saying? And for anyone who is into health, fitness and wellness, to negate, and be so left of that, it’s not acknowledging your audience, and it’s not acknowledging humans, and what America is. Everyone has a vice. You know what I’m saying? SCOTTY P.: True… celebratory streak. LOVE THE POET: And, yeah, everybody has a vice, and everybody lives in accordance. But for me, I’m, like, hey, let’s implement… at least go to the gym in the morning, at least go to the gym in the evening; at least do a pushup in your house. You know what I’m saying? Like, let’s move around it as… EZE JACKSON: So, it’s more focused on the physical health of staying active…? LOVE THE POET: Well, I would say it’s mental, physical and emotional wellbeing. So, we’re talking just now, about like, what does healthy food and fitness and things. But, the reason Brown and Healthy exists, is because when I was asked to speak at a graduate convocation, they slid in it for me to talk about Black Lives Matter. And I was, like, oh, maybe because I’m black I’m supposed to speak about Black Lives Matter, but when I… SCOTTY P.: You’re an expert. LOVE THE POET: Right. No, it was actually a Micah… And it was a great talk, but the way I approached it was, it’s not about if we matter, because that’s subjective. That’s someone’s opinion. It’s about if we exist. Let’s acknowledge that, because in this world, we’re either the wire, or we’re non-existent. Open a Baltimore magazine. We’re not in it hardly. So, my thing is, what about us? What about the people who are the working class? What about the people who make too much to get government assistance, and make, you know what I’m saying? And… and not enough to get healthcare, proper healthcare. You know what I’m saying? So… EZE JACKSON: Who’s checking for them? LOVE THE POET: Who’s checking for us? You know what I’m saying? And in that, we have to build ourselves, because when people do recognize us, they always ask if what we’re doing for the underserved, not realizing that we are the underserved, as well. You know what I’m saying? And so that’s the voice that I’m approaching, and that’s the way that the mission has changed, and the narrative changed the world. And once we start with us, and start talking about, like, wearing a shirt that says I’m Brown and Healthy. Number one, the word brown, throws people off anyway, as black Americans. No. We’re brown people. We exist here. This is… the melanin starts with us. So, we’re allowed to claim that, you know what I’m saying? We’re allowed to have that. And identifies people across the African Diaspora: we’re all brown, and we’re all… you know, and we all come from the same place. You know what I’m saying? So, this is like, several layers to the Brown and Healthy idea. EZE JACKSON: What made you…? LOVE THE POET: It’s a lifestyle… EZE JACKSON: Who made you…? What was it initially, like… what in your life personally happened to make you say, okay, LOVE the Poet, AKA Michelle Nelson, has to start this initiative, and get this going for people of color? LOVE THE POET: Michelle Antoinette Nelson. EZE JACKSON: Michelle Antoinette Nelson, my bad. LOVE THE POET: Well, I started hashtagging Brown and Healthy about three years ago, just because I’m, like, I’m brown, and I’m trying to be healthy, unh, unh, and… that was how I did it, too, like, mmh, mmh… GROUP: (laughter) EZE JACKSON: I can see that, I can see that. LOVE THE POET: I’m running, I’m running, I’m getting back on it. I ran the … track and field in college. I went through high school running track. And I was trying to get back to that, being in my mid-30s; it was, like, you know, let’s try to do that. But then, as I realized the social climate was changing, and I started to wake up every morning feeling like I was at war. Another black baby was killed, another black person was accosted, another police officer has done this, another this, another that, and it was hitting us over the head, in waves. You know what I’m saying? In the last three years, we’ve been, like, smashed by waves, and it’s not just one. It’ll be, like, five. Then nothing, then another five, then nothing. You know what I’m saying? And so, I was like, how can being an activist from, like, birth, how can I do something that it cannot be argued? And cannot be… SCOTTY P.: Minimized. LOVE THE POET: …minimized and not be shot down. SCOOTY P.: Mitigated, all that. LOVE THE POET: All of that. EZE JACKSON: Dissembled. LOVE THE POET: Right. And so, I was like, let’s be proactive, and approach it from a more positive aspect. If we’re at war, our warriors would fail. EZE JACKSON: Mmm. VITO CASH: Mmm. That’s a very important… LOVE THE POET: We would fail because we… mentally, physically and emotionally. Number one, we have to acknowledge that we are victims. And then start from there. You know, we don’t want to admit that we’re too proud, we’re too whatever, but those types of things got me going, and I said, well, how can I get to my people, and be very blatant about it? (poem) In God’s country Hypocritical is whimsical and being judgmental is a quirk We stop the clergyman from being convicts and their flocks from being jerks We’re told the hand of a rapist even though our own laws state that children can’t consent But because I love a grown woman I’m the outcast and sexual deviant And I spent more than my share of life searching for a wife With little more than a wish of good luck But I’ve learned in my sojourn most priests are preying on her son Praying for her son Hoping the life she sheds between her legs Will come and give him some In God’s country A democracy run by churches A bill passed to keep you worthless A group home jailhouse under the guise of therapeutic purposes And God I trust to guide me thus Through the murk of this sewage Of ancient Egyptian ruins Sprinkled through our belief system Like pixie dust Amen. How ’bout this Amun. Amun Ra. God’s country can’t give praise to the sun It burns God’s son God’s country can’t give praise to the Son It burns God’s Son Born ill-equipped and melaninless per ol’ massa’s depiction Who arose one day with the predilection To have every Christian praising him Contrary to Chapter 1 Verses 12 through 18 in Revelation And my people say I’m pickin’ (laughs) Oh, Michelle, stop bitchin’ Scratch that militant conspiracy It’s to go back to strokin’ senses With that fiction Well, if erotica be my niche Then why am I such a Jedi with this pseudo Christian doctrine Ask the theologians Then dethrone them Ask the theologians Then dethrone them Questions do not get answered If you do not ask them God’s country, but oh, Lord (laughs) Oh, Lord, we’ve been led astray Give me a gospel song A woman in the front pew with no panties on A pastor with a good view and a word for you all First day, give praise with a hymn, … Y’all praise him our way That bush ain’t gone Just used against us is all Control Drum beat Catch the spirit, Lord Don’t… don’t think the bridegroom will take you home Just keep your lanterns filled with hope That we’re in Afghanistan fighting heathens And not protecting poppy fields used for dope Light it Get a hit Sparks off … Google Glass, Internet, inhale, drug wars, we exist Inhale, God’s country The land of the Tea And home of the NRA See, we live for these types of parties But these days I’d rather just be free and brave I will not die a slave I will not die a slave I will not die a slave to this new dance craze Led by emotion and blind devotion Begging melodic … it Doesn’t Make Sense So go on and die before you pay your rent Make sure he’s a Christian before we elect him president Don’t be openly gay, live in fear like the rest of them Bible-thump your way into a heaven That may or may not exist Be whimsical and quirky Use your judgments to hurt me Forget that you were Pharisees and Sadducees with this the Jesus story Some of you know the parables and clear To each time stamped allegory as literally As it can be taken Forget that this religion Was a present from the forsaker To the forsaken Just don’t dare be a Muslim. Atheist Rasta Buddhist Queer scented yellow Queer scented Yellow tinted Unwed mother Bastard child Jabba’s father Porn star Stripper artist Drug dealer Politician, lawyer Liar, sinner Don’t be you And don’t be me Be afraid of these self-appointed deities Fear the gods For this is their country EZE JACKSON: I wanted to ask you, Vito, because you are a music teacher, and then also we had Kariz Marcel on here before, and you and I have worked with his company, Kariz Kids, and, you know, teaching music to children and getting them to understand the music business. But you are full time, every day; you’re in the Baltimore City public schools, teaching children music. And I know you’re very passionate about that. Where does that come from? Why do you feel there’s… what is your motivation for doing that? VITO CASH: Honestly, I never saw myself becoming a teacher. Like, you know, when I went to college, I majored in music because I didn’t really know anything else. Like, I… that was what I was most interested in, so you know, teaching kinda came to me as out of necessity. I was, like, I need a job. I need to be able to pay my bills, so that was pretty much what it was, and I wanted to still be able to work in music. So, it would kind of like, serve all those purposes. So, when I became a music teacher, I kinda hated it. Honestly, I was, like, why am I doing this? I’m here getting screamed at, getting cussed at, getting treated like, you know, somebody who doesn’t have the knowledge that I have, but, you know, it was hard for me. So, it took me about three years, before I really started to understand the job, and before I started to really understand why it was important for me. So, how I became a music teacher really was just out of necessity. I love music. But then, as I got into the job, I started to understand, like, whoa. Only 2% of teachers in America are black males. EZE JACKSON: Whoa. SCOTTY P.: Mmm. VITO CASH: Like, whoa. These kids are… SCOTTY P.: Only 2%. LOVE THE POET: 2%!? SCOTTY P.: Wow. VITO CASH: Of all the… like, 80… 84, the last numbers I check, 84% of teachers in America are white females. So, we’re talking about in the ‘hood, in every situation. So, no matter where you go, white females dominate the teaching force, so we’re talking about, in Baltimore we had a situation at Holland Park where, you know, a teacher stood up in front of the class and called the kids some derogatory names… EZE JACKSON: Yeah, I saw that. VITO CASH: She probably doesn’t even relate to them. Most of these teachers are not from Baltimore. They migrate here. So, then, you know, you come into a place, basically where they’re just hiring people who need jobs. EZE JACKSON: Scotty, my man. Yo, Jah Works. One of the dopest bands I know personally. I really enjoy rockin’ with y’all. Tell me, coming up from… coming up in Philly, how did you get into reggae music? SCOTTY P.: I had four older brothers, and two of them in particular, my brother Tim and my brother Bill were just super into reggae. And my one brother Tim had seen Bob Marley in about 1979, at a concert in Philly. I was nine years old at the time, and from that day forward it was, like, Bob Marley all the time in the house. And then it was Peter Tosh, and then it was Burning Spear, and Jimmy Cliff. It’s the Third World. So, from nine years old, I was just indoctrinated with reggae music at home. And then when I was 15, I saw my first reggae show, which was Third World, and I got into a 21-and-over club at 15, and I’m, like, in the front row looking at Third World like, okay, this is it. SCOOTY P. (singing) … walking one night When I came upon Wild Bill Jones He was walking, he was talking to the girl that I love I asked him to leave her alone He said to me, boy, I’m twenty-two years old I’m too old for to be controlled So I pulled my revolver from my left side And I shot out that poor boy’s soul Well, he rambled, and he scrambled all over the ground And let out the most dreadful moan And he reached for the girl, the one that I love Said I’m dying, won’t you please take me home So pass over to me that long necked bottle And we’ll all go out on a spree For tonight was the last of Wild Bill Jones Tomorrow will be the last of me So put on, put on those hand cuffs And walk me on down to the jail For I have no regrets and I have no friends No one for to post my bail They sent me off to prison for twenty-five long years This poor boy longs to be free But Wild Bill Jones and the long-necked bottle Sure were the ruin of me Sure were the ruin of me Sure were the ruin of me EZE JACKSON: What’s the best role that you see artists playing right now in this country? SCOTTY P.: Well, I think in this country, like any other nation in this whole wide world, throughout history, you know, whenever there’s a wave of oppression, or a wave of disillusionment, you know, or hostility towards one group from another, it’s always the artists that have to kind of… they have to communicate what is universal. And so, you know, I was sick to death on election night. Just stayed up the whole night until I heard that speech. But, what I woke up with, maybe a week later, was this sense of renewed purpose. And you look back, just look back recently to the ’60s, and the early ’70s, when you had the civil rights movement tearing this country apart. And all the crazy riots and uprisings, and then look at Nixon’s term, then look at the music that was coming out from that time. Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, and we’ve gone through probably two or three decades, in my opinion, where there hasn’t been anything of note being said, by a lot of artists. LOVE THE POET: Right. SCOTTY P.: And they’ve been getting by just talking about some frivolousness. So, I feel like artists and art communities have to just really take the man on, now. Because there’s a lot of people that are using double-speak, or not speaking at all. You know? So, it’s on us to kind of take that up. EZE JACKSON: LOVE? LOVE THE POET: I think, as an artist who, I have multiple disciplines, and I do multiple things, I think that it is important for us to understand our platform. You know, sometimes we… because it’s so easy, or it comes so… we do it all the time, we don’t realize that being the only person on that stage is something. That’s a thing. And people come and show up to hear you, that’s a thing. And having that mic, and no one else having that mic, that’s a thing, too. SCOTTY P.: It’s a powerful thing. LOVE THE POET: So, taking our platform and not abusing it, taking our online platform, which is our world, our Facebook, our Twitter, whatever, some people will never meet us in person. They will never… SCOTTY P.: Many, many… LOVE THE POET: But our digital platform is how they piece together who we are to them. So, taking our platform and our influence, and understanding that, yeah, we can write a pretty song, we can write a poem, we can do all those wonderful things, but also do like a Colin Kaepernick, you know what I’m saying? EZE JACKSON: Hm mm…. LOVE THE POET: Make statements. Stand for something, because everyone is not gifted that platform. You know what I mean? And as the founder of Brown and Healthy, taking my influence –- this is a global health and wellness initiative for people of color, because I have gone global as an artist. And so, taking those relationships, and that fan base, and I’m feeding them something that says, “Let’s stand for something”. SCOTTY P.: You’re part of this. LOVE THE POET: They’re part of this. Let’s build from here. You already… you trust me as an artist. Trust me here now. EZE JACKSON: Yeah. LOVE THE POET: You know what I’m saying? And I think that’s our role, is to not just live in our talents. We have those, but to pay attention to where your talents are taking you, and placed you, for a reason right now. SCOTTY P.: And who they, who those talents have drawn to you. LOVE THE POET: Right. But right now. Today. Why are we here in this position today? SCOTTY P.: Yeah, don’t loaf on it. Don’t loaf on it. LOVE THE POET: Yeah. Yeah. EZE JACKSON: Vito, you want to chime in? VITO CASH: I basically echo what these two people have said. You know, basically, it’s up to us as artists, to take what happens around us and reflect it, you know? SCOTTY P.: Oh, yeah! VITO CASH: Some people, kind of like, they like our man, well, why is rap… why are rappers rappin’ about this? Why rappers, d-d-d-d-d-d-dah? But a rapper is only a product of his environment. A rapper is literally, like… I mean, a… what is it? SCOTTY P.: Like a mouthpiece, a megaphone, yeah. VITO CASH: Or, like, a reporter. They just take in the environment that they’re around and just reporting it, right? So, we… you want rappers to rap about better stuff, then give them a better environment. Like, it’s going to be real, real interesting, or real, real… can you, go look real, really crazy rapping about negative things if the world is completely positive. If everybody’s walking around with enough food… got a place to live… and you’re talking about shooting and killing people, you’re gonna look at you like, yeah, what’s wrong with you? But the reason that those songs are able to exist, and the drugs and the misogyny, is able to exist, is because this is the world that we live in. So, what all these people are doing, is talking about their reality. Now, it’s up to us as artists to remember that… and to take on the act of being role models. Some… I hear some rappers say, “Oh, I’m not a role model.” Well, you… like, then… especially if a black man, you have to understand that the words that come out of your mouth, somebody’s taking them more than just as a rap, or as entertainment. EZE JACKSON: That’s right. Yeah. VITO CASH: That some child is looking at that as they probable… people study Gucci Man,e like a religion. People like… listen… let alone all of the artists that he’s influencing and brought to mainstream. But there are some people who listen to what he says, and literally model their life after that. So, I’m… I’m proud of the fact that Gucci Mane went to jail, and now has denounced drugs, is now working out, has decided to get married. Like, that’s big for hip-hop. EZE JACKSON: And that’s… I was just about to second that. I saw you shivering, but no. No, that’s a huge point, because what… if you have… if you were a Gucci Mane fan from the beginning, you’ve seen him evolve. So, as a person, you know, evolution is always … we all want to grow, and so you’re now following Gucci Mane’s life path. It’s almost somebody… you … somebody who did drugs and alcohol every single day, all day. He was never secretive about it, and never sober, and involved in every kind of underworld, negative life, that you can imagine, coming from the ‘hood. But now is wealthy, like you say, getting married, in shape, very healthy. You know what I mean? So, that’s important. This has been a… LOVE THE POET: … I didn’t know that about him. VITO CASH: Yeah, Gucci. I’m proud of him, man. He’s changed up, and I hope he keeps it like that. EZE JACKSON: Me, too. LOVE THE POET: That’s good. That’s good. EZE JACKSON: This has been a great discussion. LOVE THE POET: Yes, it has. EZE JACKSON: I really appreciate y’all coming on the show, man. SCOTTY P.: Thanks for having me. LOVE THE POET: Thank you. This is great. GROUP: … (agreeing) EZE JACKSON: You are somebody. SCOTTY P.: Jesse Jackson. EZE JACKSON: That’s right. And you are, too. GROUP: (laughter) EZE JACKSON: Look, thanks for rockin’ with us again on the Whole Bushel, right here on The Real News Network. Join us next time; follow all our episodes on Therealnews.com, as well as YouTube and our Facebook page. If you look below this video, you’ll see all the artists next to their music, check them out, support them. And keep rockin’ with us. Thanks, y’all. ————————- END