Monday, November 30, 2009

Starter Jacket by Add-2

not a whole lot to say but check this one out.

this is the sonic equivalent of growing up on the South Side of Chicago.

Add-2 is such a powerful and talented MC and artist. google this nigga immediately. Get familiar. Find all his mixtapes. I am an avid fan of this cat and I've been blessed to have him spit on my album back when. Check him out.

Now peep "Starter Jacket" by Add-2

Official Add-2 "Starter Jacket" video by PreciseMinds/Tori Boyd from Add-2 on Vimeo.


Monday, November 23, 2009

Pretty Boy Manifesto

Nupes are pretty. Anybody who has been exposed to Black Greek letter organizations has probably heard some variation of this statement. The stereotype that men of Kappa Alpha Psi are pretty boys: profoundly handsome, suave, and confident in that vanity. I knew this stereotype before I became a Kappa and everyday as a member of that organization I live under the weight of its judgment. Everyday I wake up in the morning and like many people I look in the mirror and evaluate what I see. Whether it’s a rushed glance as I hurry to an early class or a nuanced interrogation to look my best for the day’s activities, it’s something that I always do before I step into the world. Here are a couple of insights into my observations, head to toe:
The hair at the very front of my hairline is thinning. I estimate I’ll probably shave my entire head by my mid 20s. Last school year I noticed it wasn’t as thick as it had been. I figured it was because of stress and when life calmed down it would come back. Things got back to normal but my hairline didn’t. Over the summer it bothered me a lot. One of the things that bothered me the most about it was the attention a few other people paid to it. My mother and older sister both tried to get me to start using Rogaine. After talking with friends and research, I declined. C’est la vie.
I hate my mustache; I hate my face more without it. It never looks right. Either the lining on it is a little off or it hasn’t been lined and is growing too long and a little into my mouth. Either way it’s just weak but it’s vaguely better than looking like a 12-year-old with no facial hair.
Despite my facial hairs ability to grow at a ridiculous pace I am still unable to grow a connecting moustache and goatee.
By far the most troublesome of any part of my physical appearance is the maintenance of my beard. I hate letting it grow and get out of hand but shaving is problematic. I tend to get terrible razor bumps and in general my skin on my neck has an uneven tone I despise. I have tried at least 10 different shaving methods. Nothing really works. Either the shave isn’t close or I get bumps. Gels, creams, electric, single-blade, double-blade, triple, four, five, five million, depilatories, cocoa butter, shea butter, tea tree oil, olive oil, nothing works well. Razor bumps are really painful and hard to hide. They embarrass me greatly.
I’m a heavy sweater. One of the chief reasons I like dressing in layers. I don’t like short sleeves for this reason. White shirts yellow under the arm from sweat. Every time I am tagged on Facebook in some picture that shows my underarm with a deeper color than the rest of my clothes I cringe and fight the urge to untag it. Once again I’ve tried a thousand different brands. None work well.  I use clinical strength. It still doesn’t help much.
My torso has never been well built. My chest is okay but my stomach has always stuck out a little. Since I was a kid it’s just how I’ve been built. Even when I played basketball and had a 6-pack I still had a midsection that refused to lay flat. My abdominal muscles are like rows of Fruit of Islam soldiers in the movie Malcolm X. They refuse to lie down and submit to the power structure of diet, exercise, or athleticism.
My arms are small. Never been very well defined, never gotten any bigger even when I work out. Despite this I have stretch marks on my shoulders like my skin was unprepared for the rippling power of my middle-school girl sized arms. God has a sense of humor.
I have the wrists of a 2nd grade Brownie Scout and yet I have no Thin Mints or merit badges to show.
My hands are only slightly larger than my little sister’s. She is 12 years old and 5’3. This is not cool. I swear it is also not proportional.
My legs have been the same size since I was 10. I am sure of this. They are ridiculously little, especially my calves. Even in high school when I could dunk and was one of the fastest kids in my 9th grade class I still had the legs of barnyard fowl.
My feet are ugly. I don’t know who has pretty feet, but I know I don’t.
This is a small sampling of all the shit that’s wrong with me on a very surface level. If we went into detail either physically, emotionally, spiritually, or otherwise this list would be much longer but remember we’re talking about being a Pretty Boy so this list will suffice for now.
After seeing all these things I also considered the ramifications of being a Pretty Boy on a level of masculinity.
I was raised by and around almost exclusively women. I’m cool with my Dad but growing up our relationship was tenuous at best and he never really lived with my family. I found my models of manhood in other things. I found them in basketball, books, and hip-hop. The masculinities I emulated were the on-court bravado of Jordan, the intelligent passion of Malcolm X, and the uncompromising menace of DMX. I was never able to act out as hard as any of these characters I idolized but I also knew well enough to recognize that any semblance of femininity in me was something to be cast out immediately. Anything soft, sympathetic, or pretty had no place in my maturation.
A variety of life circumstances have changed that stance and here I stand as a college man, a black man, and a self-proclaimed Pretty Boy. Though the first two titles are far more important in the grand scheme of things the third is no small feat for me, not anyone else who claims it. That title is one of audacious bravery, or at least comfort. For me, being a Pretty Boy is saying I know my flaws, I accept them, I embrace them and damn I still do my thing. It’s not being without insecurities, it’s being confident DESPITE them. For me, being a Pretty Boy is an expansion of what masculinity can be and has been. It’s the insertion of a personal flair and liberty in the everyday expression of one’s own manhood without fear. It is saying very simply,  “I am who I am.”
For quite awhile after I pledged people asked me if I considered myself a Pretty Boy and I often avoided the question.  I was unsure on how to answer because I know I’m not particularly fair-skinned, baby-faced, well-dressed, or whatever else. Now after looking back on my past and looking into my present I realize there’s nothing that could better describe me. The reason why this phrase is perfect is because I’m fucked up and imperfect in a lot of ways. But I’ll be damned if I don’t make those ways look good…

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Improving Communities. What can we do?

For those that don’t know…

I was in the Chicago Tribune this past Monday.

Here's that link again.,0,5353399.column

The personal feedback I've gotten for the story has been largely positive and a lot of people have asked me what they can do. One woman who is from the suburbs of Chicago asked me what she could do to help. This was my response. Hopefully it'll help her and others.

Thank you for your kind words and thoughts. To tell you the truth I'm not sure what you can do. I'm not sure what I can do either. These problems are deep societal woes that are multilayered and multidimensional. It's really hard to say what anyone can do but I think the best strategy I've found at this point is to be an advocate on a micro-level. Wherever you are strive to not only enlighten those people but to also empower them. Especially young people, it's so important that they receive positive enforcement when they do positive things. I think what you can do is use your talents, whatever they may be, to affect your community and communities in need in a positive way. A way that errs on the side of empowerment and not pity. What that means for you is up to you but I think that's all I try to do and I think that's a good place for anyone to start. Thanks.

Hopefully now you know a lil’ something more…


Monday, October 26, 2009

Lost Count: A Love Story,0,5353399.column

Today an article was written in the Chicago Tribune about a poem I performed for Brave New Voice Poetry Slam in 2008. The piece is about youth violence in Chicago. Check out the article and poem if you get a chance.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Every Revolution Needs a Soundtrack- George Watsky

For those that don’t know…

I'm really feeling this song/video. It's by a cat named George Watsky and featuring a singer named Passion. I met George at Brave New Voices Poetry Slam 2008. He's a pretty tight poet and he's coming out with an album titled "Watsky". Not sure if the album is gonna be totally hip-hop or what the angle is but from the sounds of this song I'm definitely looking to hear more. He's originally from The Bay Area but now he's going to school at Emerson in Boston. He sounds like a more intelligent Asher Roth (no shots). They're voices are kinda similar (and they look alike, white, skinny, etc.) but I def prefer Watsky's style.

He's been on Def Poetry, won national poetry slams, blah blah blah. I'm glad to see him doing his thing. Props.

Hopefully now you know a lil’ something more…


Friday, October 9, 2009

NO-bel Peace Prize

For those that don’t know…

I’m a Democrat. This isn’t that surprising I guess. But aside from generally being a Democrat I am also someone who thinks Barack Obama is THAT dude. I think he’s articulate (in a non-“he speaks so well” house negro way), intelligent, etc. Everybody knows this spiel by now but my point is I generally ride for the big homie O but today was pretty surprising even by his standards.

…He won the Nobel Peace Prize…

not sure what I’m gonna say yet…


…got it.

On one level I definitely understand the selection and approve of it. For his campaign he had to overcome one of the world’s sickest and most pervasive racialized societies to triumph and in the process he brought people together in unprecedented ways. This is true and it was an amazing time to be young, black, (and from Chicago) but I challenge you to look a little deeper. Without taking anything away from him or the moment in history, it was by no means a kumbaya moment of profound racial conciliation or whatever. It was political. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing (he is a politician after all), but that’s what it was. Look at the facts:

1. After 8 years of a terribly unpopular president, the Democrats would’ve had to be completely inept to not win.

2. Obama ran the greatest national campaign ever. He utilized a potent mix of grassroots and major player support that raised money and awareness previously unseen.

3. He still didn’t win by THAT much. (Like 8.5 million, not a whole lot, not the biggest victory ever.)

4. McCain ran a bad campaign. I actually like McCain as far as Republicans go but he let his handlers get the best of him and he lost control of his own direction.

5. Sarah Palin (smh)

So don’t let the warm fuzziness fool you, we ARE NOT in a post-racial society (whatever that means). What we are in is a society that has a really good politician at its helm. A really good politician who has prospered because of his own merit and the failings of his opponents and despite the reality of his own blackness (Patton’s Army and Kansas aside, ONE DROP RULE, whitefolks made it and they have to live with it. HE’S OURS HAHAHA!).

Obama is still that dude and he has the potential to do a lot of good. The world opinion is still in his favor and it is my hope he can parlay that respect and popularity into making different parties come to the table and resolve their beefs. With that said, he doesn’t need a Nobel Peace Prize. Too early. Not even close.

Barack Obama was the sitting US Senator when I was in high school. Years that saw skyrocketing homicide rates for the public school system in Chicago. His Sec. of Education was running that school system. They were complicit in the murder of my peers. So was I. The blood is on all of our hands. The things that lead up to murders like that of Derrion Albert, Chris Pineda, and so many more are failures. Failures of community, family, political systems, economic systems, and school systems lead children to a place where they have no other outlet or resource (or feel like they don’t) for their rage. When that happens they kill each other.

I love Barack Obama. Every time I think of him I’m proud on so many levels (American, Chicagoan, African, etc.). I cannot, however, applaud the victory for someone who sat in the face (and continues to do so) of mass murder and was silent.

Hopefully now you know a lil’ something more…


Someone who still probably isn't qualified to win the Nobel Peace Prize but who is a lot closer in my mind is Kevin Coval. He does a lot of great community work in Chicago and Louder Than a Bomb Poetry Slam provides youth with a safe space to express every year. It's an amazing program and KC is a beast.

More info:

Youth violence:,arne-duncan-chicago-school-violence-100709.article,CST-NWS-mitch08.article

Nobel Prize:

Kevin Coval/Louder Than a Bomb:

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Greeks for Δ (Change)

For those that don’t know…
I, Nate Marshall, am in a Fraternity.

No not like that... well...not TOTALLY. We have our good time but that's not the point of this post. I am a member of an organization that is a part of the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC). The NPHC are the 9 historically Black international Greek letter organizations. (LEARN MORE:

That more like it... not really but close enough. So for many people when they think of NPHC organizations they think of stepping, branding, and hazing and such...

While those things may or may not be a part of OUR version of Greek Life (I plead the FIF!) there  are many great things that come from these organizations. I'll spare you the Greek informational list of National initiatives and famous alumni and all that but here's some things about it that I think are a fewparticularly good and progressive programs.
My chapter goes every month to West Nashville Methodist Church to feed those in need. They have a great community kitchen that happens every Thursday Night at 5:30. Check out the church and it's ministries here:
One of my organization's national philanthropic programs is St. Jude Children's Hospital. My organization (Kappa Alpha Psi, by the way) partners with them to help them raise money to keep their doors open. St. Jude, located Memphis, TN (M10-a-Key!), does cutting edge research and care focusing on children's cancer and leukemia. This year my chapter at Vanderbilt University is working hard to raise money for St. Jude in all our endeavors. This is a really worthwhile cause and St. Jude is a great institution that my Ace (funny name for the shortest guy in your greek intake class) has worked with in the past and that we are all trying to help with now.
This brings me to my final point. This Sunday, a sorority on my campus, Sigma Gamma Rho is having a great philanthropic/educational event. Their program, FΣΣD The Hungry, is utilizing a great website that addresses the problem of world hunger in a breakthrough way. The website,, basically asks users to play a free word game and for each question correct 10 grains of rice are donated to hungry people worldwide. The program is run through the UN World Food Programme and Harvard University and it's a super fresh look. If you are in the Nashville area or will be this Sunday I implore you to hit up this event and help make it a success ( If not you can still go to the website and help this very worthy cause. It's always good to see Greeks doing good. The founders would be proud.
So to all my Pretty Boys, Poodles, Pretty Girls, Apes, Divas, Dogs, Doves, GOMABs, and Centaurs... keep doing this good work!
And to everybody else...YOU TOO KEEP IT UP. We are all accountable for the world we live in.

and also...

 Hopefully now you know a lil’ something more…


The Marshall Plan: A Renewal of community through culture

For those that don’t know…

The Marshall Plan (in the historical sense) was a nifty little (little as in like 13 billion in late 1940s cake) program that worked to rehabilitate the countries of Western Europe (and Turkey) in the aftermath of World War II. Basically what it did was pour American resources into those countries in hopes to stop the spread of communism throughout Europe.

(This is a quick and very dirty version of the history but I invite you to read more: I’m a wiki-freak but it’s great place to start finding information about anything you don’t know much about. And I know it’s not always reliable, but do you think these whitefolks book are either?! I mean, really?)

So I, Nate Marshall, don’t got no change to throw into the vending machine of the world with hopes of extracting results (or a snack), but I have this blog. I don’t care about the spread of communism but I am worried about a word of the same root, community. I am concerned with the welfare and rehabilitation of the communities that I inhabit and am a part of in this world. The West Pullman/Roseland Area of Chicago (Home to the Derrion Albert murder), Those communities are the Far South Side of Chicago, the South Side of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Middle Tennessee, Tennessee, America, Black America, Young Black America, Young Black Male America, and whatever else applies.

Through this blog I’m gonna provide links, information, and insights that I think can be helpful to the healing of any and all of these communities. I feel pressed to do something and however small this is perhaps it can be a start to something greater. There will be music, politics, commentary, art, maybe some fashion, wikipedia links, and plenty of other things so come through for the ride folks. It might be an interesting one, and if not I tried.

Hopefully now you know a lil’ something more…


Stay tuned...