Allahu Akbar

•February 22, 2013 • 1 Comment

So, I wrote the other week about how we should be open to learning from other faiths and cultures… AND… I reposted a few pieces about The Taqwacores… so… here’s the sermon that I ended up churning out last week…

I note in my YouTube comments that my bio on Michael Muhammad Knight is not all that great. I made it quick and dirty, and it’s not really all that accurate, but it painted a quick picture of the man who wrote some of the most impacting works I have read in years.

I also wanted to not something interesting about the sermon preparation. About 45 minutes prior to speaking, I snuck into the pastor’s office to pray and was led to cross out a small section of my outline. Looking back, I see why I was led as such… was really interesting and something new for me.

I really just hope that posting this can generate a dialog. Use the comment section here, the one in the YouTube, or whatever to discuss these ideas. I truly believe that God is bigger and hope that the message comes across loud and clear.


•February 20, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Thank God I Don’t Rely on Radio…

The Radio Sucks

This is a screen shot of the top played songs on the only local alt-rock station in Philly. Of the top tracks, I like a total of one, really dislike a few, am totally indifferent to a few, and don’t know two…

If nearly every track that I enjoy on a station was from 2004 or earlier, that means two things… modern music is pretty crappy and I am pretty old.

The sooner the Mumford bands stop dominating the airwaves, the sooner I… oh, who am I kidding? I’ll never like music on the radio again…

Dafuniks and the Lawnmower Test

•February 19, 2013 • Leave a Comment

This piece originally appeared on TPM, but is gone do to my own stupidity. Today, I was bumpin’ some Dafuniks and decided to repost this old review that I dug up in my personal archives. Glad I was able to locate it. Enjoy!


If you’ve been following TPM for the last few years, you’ve probably heard the name Elias before and you’ve most certainly heard the name Pigeon John. It just so happens that both of these crazy cats find themselves features on the latest album from Dafuniks. Never heard of Dafuniks? Well, there is good reason for that if you are an American, they are a Danish hip hop trio signed to a French record label. Underdog Records, is described by some French websites as a “rising star” in the French hip hop world and a “fresh” and “exciting” label. Perhaps groups like Dafuniks are the reasons why this label is gaining steam. With that in mind, I decided yesterday to put the new album, Enter the Sideshow Groove, to the LAWNMOWER TEST.

“What is the ‘Lawnmower Test?’” you ask. Simple. It’s when thepaintedman pops the album in during his weekly lawnmowing session and decides whether or not the album holds up. Extremely downbeat or chill albums are not lawnmower albums, but I’ve also found that metalcore rarely find themselves to be great lawnmower albums either. The top lawnmower albums tend to be in the realms of hip hop, alternative rock, and punk. This Spring and Summer, thepaintedman will be featuring the Lawnmower Test roughly one a week (read as: “whenever I am forced to mow my stinkin’ lawn”) and seeing that Dafuniks are a hip hop crew that doesn’t make their bones in a more chill, modern R&B drenched manner, they seemed to be a great choice for the first of the season.

The first key point to make is that Dafuniks passed the test. A bit more groove-oriented than my typical selection, Enter the Sideshow Groove lent itself to a leisurely mow in thepaintedman’s backyard with a few short dance breaks. Tracks “D to the A”, “Don’t Dig Too Deep”, and “Bone Jacked & Buggin’ Out” were standouts, but there were no tracks that caused me to pause from my job to press skip. This is an uncommon thing, seeing as I get bored and picky quite easily. The tracks featuring female lead vocals, ie. “Daisy” (with Barbara Moleko) and “After Midnight” (with Astrid Engberg) had a Portishead type flavor to them, which is certainly up my alley. Overall a solid album from a group that I knew nothing of other than an affinity for two of their album guests.

Another track that tickled my fancy a great deal was the R&B flavored “Hello, I Love You” which stars the talents of Elias Wallace, an artist I’ve come to appreciate a good deal as an emcee, a singer, and a person. More than a guest on this album, Elias appears on several tracks. This track and the aforementioned “Don’t Dig Too Deep” (which also features Pigeon John, whom I have discovered is apparently quite beloved by the French) are my favorite Dafuniks tracks featuring Elias, but his talents don’t go unnoticed on “Typical Guy” and “All I Want”. When I sat down after my post mowing shower, I couldn’t help but grab my headphones and replay these tracks again immediately. Approximately half of the 15 tracks on the album will likely be featured on playlists and mix CDs for the foreseeable future.

Overall, fans of funk flavored hip hop can’t miss with this one. The fun grooves of Handsome Boy Modeling School, the grooves of Portishead, and the flavor of Beatnuts all come to mind as I listen to Enter the Sideshow Groove. So, whether you have to mow your lawn, you need a backbeat for your day at work, or you just want to laze in your yard and enjoy a nice Spring day with a good beer in hand this is surely an album you shouldn’t dismiss.

Punkin’ Up the Faith

•February 11, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Originally posted 11/15/11…


Religion is always a hot button issue and in today’s social climate Islam is oft the religion most under fire (at least by the Western world). As far as this film buff sees, anyone can attempt to criticize what they don’t know, but it’s the insider critiques,like The Taqwacores, that actually hold weight.

Like comedies Saved and Dogma have done in recent years with Christianity, The Taqwacores uses a fictional account to hold a mirror up to a group of people with faith. However, unlike Saved and Dogma. Any shroud of safety that comedic elements provide are completely null and void in The Taqwacores; instead, the film holds a broken bottle to the neck of Islam and forces the entirety of the faith to look into that mirror intently.

One need not be Muslim to look into this mirror provided by the film. As a member of the Christian faith, this reviewer was no less forced to look deeply into that mirror. The same issues, perhaps to differing degrees, are evident in Christianity: inequality, oppressions, dogma, hypocrisy, judgment, and internal strife. Is not the Christian church the most divided faith group in the world? How can American Christians not relate in some way to this film?

As synopsis, a group of young Muslims live in a home near Syracuse University in Buffalo, NY. The group of young Muslims ranges from a Straight-Edger with militant fundamental leanings to a pot-smoking spiritual leader to a foul mouthed heretic in a full burqa. The newest resident moves in, a clean cut young man entering University and practicing Islam devoutly (he is the least “punk rock” character in the story, at least in appearance – though punk rock ideals, notably true nonconformity, are very evident in his evolved character). Through this new student’s eyes, the viewer experiences the dogma of fundamental Islam clashing with the new paradigms presented by the punks.

These clashes between a progressive faith and a classical faith present sharp critiques of how people of faith tailor their personal Allah to what they want Him to be. It’s obvious in the film that no side is without blame. While they challenge putting God in a box, some of the punks used scripture to prove their own agendas and others even rip pages from their Quran because of what the verses say. The fundamentalists, especially the group presented towards the end, are obviously furthering bigotry in how they clash with the others. All of these clashes are eye opening and worth more than a moment to ponder on.

An incredible film, The Taqwacores is a must watch for church leader of any faith. The ideas presented through the vehicles of the characters and their ideas are not to be dismissed. This film is a breath of fresh air and a kick to the groin. Open up you eyes, your heart, and your mind, because faith is not black and white.

Second blog below, originally posted 11/16/11…

The Taqwacores

Yesterday, I posted my review of The Taqwacores, a powerful film about the clash of old time religion and the younger generation’s progressive paradigms, namely classical Islam vs. progressive ideas of a young Muslim punk movement. If you read my review, you’ll see that I was quite inspired by the film and the ideas it presents. The book by Michael Muhammad Knight that the film is based on (which I have yet to read :cough: birthday present :cough:) was originally supposed to his final divorce with the faith, but instead launched a new subgenre of music and a personal rediscovery for Knight (check back for an interview in the next month or so). Here are some of the thought I have had since screening the movie.

My faith and ideas about faith are routinely challenged. Sometimes a great Bible study (like the Beer Snob Bible Club meeting this past Saturday) challenges me and recharges my battery. Other times, a challenge may be presented by a book, an article, or some other piece or art or media… my afternoon viewing a Netflix double feature of The Taqwacores and Taqwacore: The Birth of Punk Islam (a documentary about Michael Muhammad Knight’s first journey back to Pakistan after his writing The Taqwacores) was one such example in my recent life.

Since that day, I can’t stop focusing on the l sermon given by Jehangir Tabari, a central figure in the film who serves are a leader in the Muslim punk scene in the film. The sermon is below… irreverent and yet, very reverent all at once, it is a challenge to all persons of faith, not just Jehangir’s faith group:

Allah’s arranging things beyond all our grasps. The earth isn’t spinning because you told it to. Your intestines aren’t digesting by your command. You’re made up of a trillion cells that don’t ask your permission before offering their rakats [daily prayers]. And we think submission’s about applying a strict discipline to our worship? We think surrender’s about not eating a pig? It’s not that small to me. I can’t fit my deen [religion] in a little box because to me, everything comes from Allah… Allah’s too big and open for my deen to be small and closed. Does that make me a kafr [disbeliever/blasphemer]? I say Allahu Akbar [God is Great/God is Bigger]. If that’s not good enough, then fuck Islam, you can have it…

I don’t think than Jehangir’s primary message is that discipline is a bad thing, but rather than Allah/God is much much bigger than any box we can try to put Him into. We all know what extreme fundamental zealots have done in this world… 9/11, the Crusades, holy wars, etc. etc. But, in a much more frequent forum, we use our own versions of God to explain away our decisions, support our actions, and crucify others… don’t we? I know damn well that Pat Robertson’s version of Jesus and George W. Bush’s version of God are not the same as mine… and, of course, I believe that my “progressive” understanding of Jesus is more correct. But this message in the film is as much to me as it is to Dubya or Mr. 700 Club!

There is a spiritual leader type in the film who smokes pot and even goes as far as to support it scripturally. There are views presented by both sides of the fence, the fundamental Muslims and the progressive-minded punks, in The Taqwacores, that put Allah in a box. Understanding that God is in everything and everyone sometimes feels very “Eastern religion” yet it is, in fact, very important to any persons of faith, Christianity certainly included.

Reflect on this sermon and tell me what you think it means “surrender” is. Tell me what it means to say that “God is Bigger”. How do we avoid putting God in a box? How do we keep our deens “big and open” trather than “small and closed”?

Hatred Sucks

•February 8, 2013 • Leave a Comment

I hate hate! If there is one thing that truly brings forth a feeling of rage in me, it’s hatred. Write that on the table, I’ll start this blog with some brief bios and histories so you can get the full picture.

To begin with, who is Lord Jamar?

Lord Jamar (born Lorenzo Dechalus, September 17, 1968 in New Rochelle, New York) is a emcee and actor. He is a member of the hip-hop group Brand Nubian, which formed in 1989. As an actor, he is best known for his role of Supreme Allah on the TV series Oz. He has appeared on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Third Watch, and The Sopranos. He has also done production work for artists such as Dead Prez, Buckshot, Shaka Amazulu The 7th and Tom Browne. He released his debut solo album The 5% Album (an album dedicated to the Nation of Gods and Earths) on June 27, 2006. He also appeared in a much talked about episode of The (White) Rapper Show in which he criticized contestant John Brown for naming his company Ghetto Revival. Like his onscreen character on Oz, Jamar is a member of the Nation of Gods and Earths.

Jamar is a core member of Brand Nubians, a socially conscious trio of rappers that formed in 1989. Jamar is a Five Percenter, a complex offshoot of the Nation of Islam. To many, their doctrines would sound no more legitimate than Scientology, but the group has a decorated history and following, including many of the founding fathers of hip hop (Jamar included).

Another player in today’s story is Michael Muhammad Knight. If you are my friend, or follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you know that MMK is my favorite author right now. His exploration of his own faith (Islam) has inspire my exploration of mine (Christianity). In fact, his writing is part of the source material for a sermon I’ll be delivering later this month. MMK is certainly considered a heretic by many, if not most, of the Muslim world. He has embraced groups like the Five Percenters that the mainstream Muslim faith community has rejected.

As MMK is one of my favorite writers, I follow his VICE column and read earlier this week Michael Muhammad Knight’s take on Lord Jamar’s comments of Kanye’s kilt. I, honestly, knew nothing of Jamar’s comments or even Kayne’s kilt prior to reading this piece, but I spent some time on Jamar’s twitter and on Google to see what the story with Kanye’s kilt and Jamar’s comments were about…

It all started with this tweet… “Y’all Cee where the Kanye sh*t is taking us right? #halfafag.” This tweet Jamar has since explained doesn’t make him a homophobe. Brand Nubian has made homophobic jabs in lyrics before, but these Kanye attacks, including a new diss track that I don’t intend on listening to anytime soon, seem to be on another level.

I’m not an expert on the Five Percenters, but I do find their culture fascinating. Lord Jamar, as well as other Gods (what Five Percenters call themselves and each other), have been jumping at MMK for his piece saying that Jamar was well within his right and that “Gods don’t play that gay shit” (a direct quote). And, that’s bullshit.

I don’t care if it’s Westboro, orthodox Muslims, or these Five Percenters, blaming hate on your religion is bullshit. If your higher power is a bigot, then your higher power is full of shit. God is bigger than rules and walls that we try to build around Him. Jamar can indicate that he’s not a homophobe claim that his views on sexuality are the views of “true Gods” just like Jerry Falwell could say that 911 happened because God was exacting his wrath on the gays… any way you slice it, it’s called hate.

So in other words, grow up. In other words, God is bigger than the box you put Him in. In other words, Jamar is a bigot. Period.


•February 6, 2013 • Leave a Comment

(one of three poems inspired by the Kenneth Koch and William Carlos Williams)

i crashed your car this morning
i’ve always wanted to crash a car
and quite frankly, mine doesn’t have collision insurance

Beyonce Ain’t Kwalified

•February 5, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Beyonce’s half time show at the Superbowl this past weekend did nothing for me… sorry. So sue me! Her outfit was ugly,the screen with 27 other Beyonces was annoying, and neither Destiny nor the Child impressed me. I know many people though her outfit was too risque. I know many found he to be drop dead sexy. And, I am sure others just watched intently hoping for a wardrobe malfunction (which a quick Google search reveals seems to have happened). For me, it was a chunk of time that I should have spent listening to something else.

Beyonce Sucks

Ok, so that’s out of the way. Now, I’ll write about something that does do something for me… the music of Kevin “Kwalified” Richie aka “Kwal of the Ill Hill Society” aka “that shirtless dude over there smoking a joint” aka… well I guess that’s it for now. Over the past few years, I have been enjoying the tunes he puts out and getting to know him. We have some mutual friends from the rap world and he’s a pretty cool dude. What I am trying to say here is that you should stop listening to Beyonce and listen to Kwal instead… and during a life show, there’s an almost certainty that there will be a wardrobe malfunction.

While, I think his Kevin Arnold EP is still my favorite release, it’s probably because I’m a giant nerd. In fact, it’s undeniable that his newest album, We Makin’ Music Doe, shows maturity in songwriting, lyricism, and production. Despite my preference of listening to EP about The Wonder Years, it’s safe to say that Kwal continues to grow as an artist.

While I am unsure which track is my fave, I will go with the opener, “Time” which features Kwal’s own cousin, Weirdo TC and Joe Kerr. Oddly, the style of the track is not really the sound I gravitate towards, but there is an appeal to this track. “She Spoke” could easily be my favorite as well. I enjoy the flow of this track a ton.

Kwal is a huge fan of my favorite emcee of all time, Pigeon John, and I think that influence comes through from time to time. Perhaps that’s part of Kwal’s appeal to me… but whatever it is, I really enjoy him and this album.

In closing, I leave you with Kwal’s Top 5 Albums of 2012, as per a text convo a few weeks back… Swing Low Magellan by The Dirty Projectors, GKMC by Kendrick Lamar, Life is Good by Nas, Duality by Captain Murphy, and I’m a Hitta by Li’l Durk. He also noted that CookBook‘s The Smell of Success was up there with the year’s best.

You didn’t notice Beyonce creep onto that top 5 list, did you? I didn’t think so!